at the bottom of the barrel in terms of food insecurity and child hunger touched a nerve for a lot of people in our state. That report was reinforced with similarly discouraging information from the Kids Count (Annie E, Casey Foundation) report.
Among those moved to find a solution is Rep. Ben Ray Luján, who organized a virtual town hall meeting on Saturday, August 24, for folks in the Third Congressional District to offer their feedback, their concerns, solutions, and most importantly a description of the situation in their particular community. Participants discussed the need to collaborate and work together and
to obtain more information about all the resources that are available to
combat hunger and poverty. Comments also focused on the need to
communicate and educate communities about what services exist."
The town hall conversations were coordinated from the Santa Fe Community College, where Rep. Luján, congressional aides and experts interacted with about 40 people from from communities across the Third Congressional District, including
Gallup, Rio Rancho, Tucumcari, Farmington, Las Vegas, the To'hajilee Indian Reservation, and Santa Fe. Also
participating in the forum were representatives from the Santa Fe
offices of Sen. Tom Udall and Sen. Martin Heinrich. "Many people
expressed an appreciation for this opportunity to talk about these
issues and bringing people to the table who have been focusing on these
issues but hadn’t worked together before,"said Andrew Stoddard, deputy staff communications director for Rep. Luján.
Immediately below is the introductory video for the Town Hall meetings (Part 1).
According to Rep. Lujan, his office was aware of the data when the
two reports were released. "We really should not have waited this long
to start these conversations," Rep. Luján said in introductory remarks a
the town hall. "We really have not seen government--elected officilas
at the state and federal level--take the responsiblity that we should
and see what we can do to work with...local government, with city and
county elected officials, with professionals, nonprofits in the various
communities and the stakeholders to see what we could do our part."
and poverty impacts seniors, children, and families throughout New
Mexico. The reasons behind each story can differ, but the impact is
broad, affecting everything from school performance to health care
outcomes,” said Rep. Luján. “It is vital that we take steps to not only
pull people out of hunger and poverty, but also prevent them from facing
it altogether. No New Mexican should go to bed hungry, worried if they
will eat the next day or where they will sleep the next night. This
important discussion must continue and we must build on the efforts of
so many in our communities to combat the root causes of poverty and
hunger in New Mexico.”
One of the participants in the forum was Sherry Hooper, executive director of the Food Depot, the Santa Fe-based food bank that serves northern New Mexico. “With poverty levels reaching as high as 27% in areas within The Food Depot’s nine-county service area and growing demands for emergency food assistance, I’m excited to participate in the development of solutions to end poverty for thousands of New Mexicans,” said Hooper. “Low-income families face many challenges in their everyday lives such as accessing nutritious food or obtaining good medical care for their children. These challenges can overwhelm families and those providing services to people in poverty.”
Now that the conversation has been started, Rep. Luján plans to
follow up. "The forum was a positive first step to bring stakeholders
together, share information about the work everyone is doing, and
discuss the various aspects of poverty and hunger," said Stoddard. "We
look forward to holding more discussions in the near future so that
stakeholders can continue to update each other on their efforts and so
that there is more coordination of efforts that are already occurring.
Many important aspects of hunger and poverty were raised that our office
will look into further as we continue our efforts to improve the
well-being of people across New Mexico."