New Mexico State Auditor Albuquerque, NM "My mom did the best she could in providing for me, my brother and sister. Because we lived in poverty, we relied on food stamps to get us through the difficult days. I’m forever grateful for the generosity of this country."
Auditor Balderas was one of six members of a panel who participated in a discussion that followed the screening of A Place at the Table in Albuquerque on July 24. Balderas said the producers of A Place at the Table approached him to tell his story because they wanted to feature prominent people who at one time in their lives had to rely on food stamps.
Balderas, who was raised by a single mother in the village of Wagon Mound in northeastern New Mexico, offered a glimpse of his childhood experiences, and how receiving food stamps was a bittersweet experience. "I felt stimgmatized because we were on food stamps," said Balderas.
|Balderas spoke in panel after A Place at the Table screening|
At the same time, food stamps gave his family the opportunity to go shopping for groceries, which he said was as exciting as going to the playground. "I was excited to be pushing the cart, going in and coming out," he told the audience gathered at the Bank of America theater at the National Hispanic Cultural Center.
Milk was one of the grocery items that his family bought with food stamps at the beginning of the month. Things were different at the end of the month, when the milk had run out. "I knew the feeling toward the end of the month...that I would be using water to eat my cereal," Balderas told the audience.
Balderas, who has led the State Auditor's office since 2006, previously served one term in the New Mexico state legisalture. He ran in the 2012 Democratic primary election to replace the retiring Sen. Jeff Bingaman, but was defeated by current Sen. Martin Heinrich.
There was some dicussion in the panel about New Mexico's last-place standing in terms of childhood hunger, both in a Feeding America Report and the Kids Count Data Center. This situation came up in the question-and-answer session. While there are actions that the State Legislature can take, Balderas suggested that we think outside the box. He proposed the notion that the Attorney General's Office bring some sort of legal action. "This would certainly put New Mexico on the spotlight," said Balderas, who has declared his candidacy for attorney general in the 2014 election. If elected, would Balderas promote such a lawsuit? Stay tuned.
Panel Reacts to Documentary, Discusses Community Projects
|Community advocates discussed strategies, local efforts after viewing A Place at the Table|
Rep. Lujan Grisham sent a recorded message sharing her experiences as a participant in the SNAP Challenge. (More on that in a separate post). Mariana Padilla, Rep.Lujan Grisham's field representative in Albuquerque, gave us an update on recent legislative activity in Washington regarding SNAP and other nutrition programs. The House separated nutrition programs entirely from the Farm Bill, while the Senate's version cuts about $4 billion in SNAP. With the two sides so far apart, there might not be a Farm Bill this year, which means that Congress might have to approve a continuing resolution for another year. Stay tuned for more legislative updates and advocacy opportunities.