Wednesday, January 30, 2013

What Do Water Hyacinths Have to Do With Hunger?

A group of Wings Ministry volunteers from Albuquerque and elsewhere traveled to Kenya in late January and early February to connect with folks involved in prison ministry.  Here is a daily log from the trip.  The mission of Wings Ministry in the US and other countries is to connect spouses, caregivers, and children of inmates with the nurturing and supporting relationships of Christian people in local churches.

Some of the prisons that the team visited are located near Kisumi on the northeast shore of Lake Victoria.

Team leader Ann Edenfield  tells us what the visitors encountered when they went to the lake.

Since we are on the shores of Lake Victoria, we wanted to see the lake. A resort was near the airport, with a golf course next door, and yet when we got there we could see no water. A real problem is in the harbor in Kisumu as hyacinths have literally choked the harbor. For 8 months basically all one can see is greenery, which is a harbor full of hyacinths. This is because of all the waste from fertilizers and human waste which is feeding the hyacinths. We met the owner of the resort and his boats were stuck in the hyacinths. Apparently they often had hippos and even crocodiles in the water, but we didn’t see any animals. He said he wouldn’t even put his little finger in the water right now.

Water hyacinths are native to South America, and no one knows how they ended up in sub-Saharan Africa. Their presence has become a major environmental problem and is creating difficulties for local residents to maintain access to traditional sources of food.  Here's the problem:

Because of its dense growth, it blocks sunlight from reaching the lake's native aquatic plants, which affects fish and other marine life-- and those who make their livelihoods catching them.  A CNN article gives you the big picture.

And National Geographic offers a similar perspective. Getting to fishing grounds became a terrible struggle. A reduced catch and lowered income threatened to trigger widespread famine. Rotting vegetation, under the suffocating blanket of weeds, began to foul drinking water — which comes straight from the lake.  

There are ongoing efforts to control the invasive weed, and hopefully there will be long-term success.  But changes in the environment, whether created by humans or not, are a very difficult challenge.

Here is a video report from CNN (please pardon the advertisement--it comes with the video).

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Create an Experience at the National Gathering in June

Logo for 2013 National Gathering
I don't remember how many Bread for the World national gatherings I have attended, but I know I don't have enough fingers to count them all. All I can tell you is that each one brings a unique experience.

Colorado advocates on Lobby Day
This leads to an obvious question.  Can I name my most memorable national gathering?  In many cases, one tends to remember the entire gathering by a single unforgettable experience, and that is the case with the two I selected.

The first one was back in the 1990s, and the experience came on Lobby Day.  It wasn't necessarily the actual visits to the congressional offices, but the reception.  I was surprised when both my senator and my representative came to the reception. And it wasn't just a matter of them accepting the printed invitation that I left with their aides during the visits to their offices, but they asked for me at the door!

The second great experience was in 2005, when we had the first of two Interfaith Convocations at the National Cathedral in Washington on the Monday of the national gathering. The church was bursting at its seams with representatives of many faith traditions. Of course, there were the many Christian denominations from across the spectrum. But Judaism, Sikhism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and other traditions were also there to share verses from their sacred scriptures spelling out our common responsibility to seek the common good by ensuring that everyone was fed, clothed and housed.  And there was music and celebration from all our traditions.  I can still hear the drums beating and the entire congregation singing in Zulu, English and Spanish: Siyahamb' ekukhanyen' kwenkhos' (We are marching in the light of God/ Caminamos en la luz de Dios). 

We had a second interfaith convocation at the National Cathedral as part of the 2007 national gathering, and it was great too.  But the first experience in 2005 was the one that stands out for me.

Marty Haugen

I can name great memories from other national gatherings, including my very first time I went to Washington on behalf of Bread.  And then there's the 35th anniversary reception,when composer and singer Marty Haugen helped us celebrate the occasion with a song he wrote for Bread for the World.

And I also remember a different kind of "singing" at another gathering.  Remember that time when  Bread President David Beckmann and the ONE Campaign fellows on staff did karaoke to Aretha Franklin's song Respect?

If you haven't been to a national gathering (or even if you have attended one or more), I invite you to consider joining us in Washington this year to create your own great experience. Who knows, there might be something about this gathering that will make it one of your favorites. The events and the learning experiences and the advocacy are all important.  But it is those great interactions with other anti-hunger advocates that add a great richness to occasion.  (Read my quote in the Bread blog).

Guess who was singing Respect?
Here is the tentative schedule for this year:
  • June 8-10: 2013 National Gathering
  • June 10: International Meeting on Maternal and Child Nutrition
  • June 11: 2013 Lobby Day
Check back later for more information, or contact your regional organizer.
What can you expect from a Bread for the World National Gathering? View materials from the 2011 National Gathering.

If for some reason you are unable to come this year, then start planning for 2014. That is Bread's 40th birthday, and you know that is an occasion to celebrate!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Save the Date! Albuquerque Offering of Letters Workshop on March 16

Before I tell you about the topic of this year's Offering of Letters, I'd like to ask you to put a mark on you calendar on Saturday, March 16. We are planning our annual Offering of Letters workshop on this date. The gracious folks at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church have once again opened up their space for us.  (Thank you Patty Emord for making it possible). As usual, we will start at 9:30 and go until about Noon.Stay tuned for details.

A Place at the Table official photo
A Place at the Table 
This year's Offering of Letters will have a slight twist from previous years. We are linking our letter-writing campaign to a documentary that will be shown in movie theaters around the country That means it might come to Albuquerque (and we have big plans if it does).

We will also be signing a petition to President Barack Obama holding him to the promises he made when he was running for reelection. (We would have done the same for Gov. Mitt Romney if he had been elected).

There will be much more information to come.  In the meantime, here is a synoposis (and a link to a trailer) of the documentary A Place at the Table.

49 million people in the U.S.—one in four children—don’t know where their next meal is coming from, despite our having the means to provide nutritious, affordable food for all Americans. Directors Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush examine this issue through the lens of three people who are struggling with food insecurity: Barbie, a single Philadelphia mother who grew up in poverty and is trying to provide a better life for her two kids; Rosie, a Colorado fifth-grader who often has to depend on friends and neighbors to feed her and has trouble concentrating in school; and Tremonica, a Mississippi second-grader whose asthma and health issues are exacerbated by the largely empty calories her hardworking mother can afford. From the people who brought you FOOD, INC., A PLACE AT THE TABLE features Top Chef’s Tom Colicchio, Oscar®-winning actor Jeff Bridges, and many others. 

One in four children in the U.S. lives on the brink of hunger. #APLACEATTHETABLE asks why
 From Magnolia/Participant, the team that brought you FOOD, INC. —> Coming soon!

Friday, January 25, 2013

As One People

“In our personal ambitions we are individualists. But in our seeking for economic and political progress as a nation, we all go up or else all go down as one people.”

- Theodore Roosevelt

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Two Super Souper Bowls (and you don't have to spend $2,475 for a ticket!!)

You have a choice.  You could either buy a Super Bowl ticket for $2,475.  Or for the same price, you could  attend the Souper Bowl in Santa Fe with 99 of our friends and relatives or the one in Albuquerque with 61 companions. Tickets are $25 in Santa Fe and $40 in Albuquerque.

And if you go to the Super Bowl in New Orleans, the $2,475 does not include any food.  You'll have to shell our some extra bucks to sample some of the offerings from concession stands at the Superdome. (And it's not as good as the food at the great restaurants outside the stadium in New Orleans).

The Souper Bowls in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, on the other hand, gives you samples of great gourmet food from dozens of local restaurants and benefit The Food Depot and Roadrunner Food Bank.

The Food Depot event, which will be held at the Santa Fe Convention Center (201 West Marcy Ave.) on Saturday, January 26, Noon-2:30 p.m., features food from The Blue Corn Cafe, Jambo Cafe, Azur, and other fine restaurants in the City Different.

In Albuquerque, the event will be held at Roadrunner Food Bank, 5840 Office Blvd NE, 11:00-2:00 p.m., also on January 26.  Dozens of great restaurants will be offering samples, including Standard Diner (Guy Fieri was there!), High Noon Restaurant and Saloon, La Fonda del Bosque La Provence Brasserie and many other wonderful establishments in the Duke City.  This is a special Souper Bowl for Roadrunner.  It's the 20th anniversary. That means you have to celebrate with sweets from Nothing Bundt Cakes or Choco Canyon Artisan Chocoloate.
If  you're  looking for football at the Souper Bowls, you're out of luck (although I'm certain you'll see a few people wearing Steeler, Cowboy, Bronco and other NFL jerseys). But since the actual Super Bowl is a week later, it is possible to  still attend one of the New Mexico fundraisers and the Harbowl (Harbaugh Bowl?) between the Falcons and the Ravens (provided you have that extra $2,475, plus air fare and hotel)  Or you can just watch it at home on your flat screen TV.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's Birthday with a Great Quote

The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.

- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Poverty and Hunger in New Mexico: The Good, The Bad and the Potentially Good

You've heard the adage, I have good news and bad news.  Which do you want to hear first?  Most of us pick the bad news for starters.  But I'll go with the good news first, then the bad news, and then the potentially good news.

FRAC's School Breakfast Scorecard
Logo for End Hunger Connecticut
A report released this week by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) ranks New Mexico at the top of the list in terms of providing school breakfast for low-income children.  According to the report, entitled School Breakfast Scorecard, New Mexico served 70.2 low-income children breakfast for every 100 who received lunch during the 2011-12 school year.

By way of comparison, our neighbor Utah (which ranked last among the 50 states and the District of Columbia), which had a ratio of 33.9 to 100. 

More importantly, our state's performance has improved from 2010-2011,when the ration was 63.5 to 100.

One reason why our state has such a high ranking are the efforts of New Mexico Appleseed through its Breakfast After the Bell campaign and the No Kid Hungry New Mexico program over the past couple of years.  

And the FRAC report makes a point of highlighting the efforts of New Mexico to leverage federal funds to attain the goal.   

"If all states were able to reach FRAC’s goal of 70 low-income children eating school breakfast for every100 low-income children eating school lunch, which New Mexico has demonstrated is achievable and several other states are
approaching, states would be taking advantage of a significant amount of additional federal funding and would provide breakfast for millions more low-income children each day."  
Read full report

Kids Count Report
Cover for 2012 report
Now to the bad news.  A new report from New Mexico Voices for Children, also released this past week at the State Capitol to mark the start of the State Legislature on Jan. 15, ranks New Mexico 49th among 50 states in terms of child well-being.  The Kids Count report, wich the NMVC publishes on an annual basis, said our state ranks 49th among the 50 states in terms of child well-being.  New Mexico was also 49th in terms of children living in poverty, 50th for fourth graders not proficient in reading, 39th for children without health insurance and 47th for children in single-parent families.  Here is a recommendation:

State government should support and fund a comprehensive, high-quality early childhood care and education system of services. These services include prenatal care and home visiting programs, high-quality child care, and preschool. Such programs will do much to improve the well-being of New Mexico’s children, giving infants and toddlers the best start during the most critical developmental stage of their lives and ensuring that children are reading by third grade and will have the necessary foundation for a successful path to high school graduation and college/career readiness. See full report

Governor's Hunger Task Force
And now the other potentially good news (provided that it leads to concrete actions). I also want to point to an executive order that Gov. Susana Martinez signed in August 2012 to create a Hunger Task Force in New Mexico.  The executive order has the usual statements of why it's necessary to create the task force (Whereas), the composition of the task force and its purpose.  

The task force is charged with compiling a report to the Gov. Martinez with recommendations to address the following issues and concerns. 

a. An assessment of food programs throughout the state to identify gaps in service
b.  Methods by which to address gaps in service
c. An inventory of all food programs that exist across state government and any recommendations to streamline programs to make them more effective
d. Model practices, both local and in other states in order to make strategic use of resources
e. Promotion of programs in order to reach families in need
The report is due no later than one year following the first task force meeting. Following the completion of the report, the task force will meet only as needed at the discretion of the chair (the governor's representative). 

In summary, we know that we did well in providing school breakfasts for our children, and this has to continue.  The governor's task force is an important vehicle to ensure that we identify the needs and take direct action to ensure access to food for everyone.  

But we also must recognize the systemic problems that keep families in our state in poverty and develop strategies. Economic development and job creation are certainly one step.  Improving education and improving access to  health care are another step. And of course, we must continue to leverage our state resources with federal dollars that give citizens access to important federal programs.  That's where our State Legislature and Gov. Martinez have an important role to play.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Where Will You Sit?

Kalen Olsen and Jasmine McBeath from  New Mexico Oxfam Action Corps have put together a great poster for the February 2, Hunger Banquet. A number of organizations, including Bread New Mexico, are cosponsoring this event. Please join us on that Saturday evening!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Lutheran Advocacy Ministry Luncheon to Feature Bishop Who Once Served in West Africa, Madagascar and Tanzania

Bishop Gonia
A handful of advocacy groups are focusing on human needs in this year's 60-day session of the New Mexico State Legislature.  One of those groups, the Lutheran Advocacy Ministry New Mexico,  hosts a luncheon and issues briefing every year, featuring the bishop of the Rocky Mountain Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA).

This year's luncheon--scheduled for Wednesday,  February 6--features  recently-elected Rocky Mountain Synod Bishop Jim Gonia. An Issues Briefing will be held at Christ Lutheran Church in the morning prior the luncheon. 

Bishop Gonia, who was installed in Denver in September, previously served for 10 years with his wife Kim (also an ordained ELCA pastor) in Madgascar, Tanzania and West Africa for ELCA's Global Mission. "We are a church that rolls up its sleeves and gets to work," Gonia, who served as program director for the region, said in an interview with The Denver Post on Sept. 20.

The luncheon will be held at 12:30 pm in La Terraza at La Fonda Hotel (Old Santa Fe Trail & East San Francisco). Tickets are  $30 per person, but the cost is reduced to $25 when four or more people attend from your congregation or group AND register by Monday, January 28.  The deadline for reservations is Friday, February 1.

If you are only able to attend the morning issues briefing, the cost is $5.

Please make reservations by calling the Lutheran Advocacy Ministry office at 505.984.8005 or sending an email to 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Putting a Priority on Human Needs at the New Mexico State Legislature

Today is the first day of the 60-day session for the 2013 New Mexico State Legislature, and there will be many interests competing for the attention of our elected representatives.

Some of these interests represent industry groups or corporations.  But who speaks out for our low-income families, our children,  our family farmers?  Who puts a priority on school meals, the needs of the homeless, tax fairness?

Fortunately, a handful of groups are up in Santa Fe for that very purpose, including  the Lutheran Advocacy Ministry New MexicoNew Mexico Food and Agriculture Policy Council and Farm to TableNew Mexico Voices for Children, the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops, the New Mexico Conference of Churches, the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness, and the New Mexico Association of Food Banks.

A handful of  these groups have listed their legislative and/or policy priorities for this year, and we are sharing them with you below.  Some of these organizations also advocate on other issues, but these are the most relevant to our work. 

- Lutheran Advocacy Ministry New Mexico

1. Hunger
  • Funding for the state SNAP supplement program
  • Efforts to close New Mexico’s food gap
  • Funding for food banks statewide
2. Affordable Housing & Homelessness
  • Programs that assist children & adults experiencing homelessness
3. Family-Sustaining Income
  • Policies and programs that assist people living in poverty to work toward family-sustaining income 
4.  Tax Policy 
  • Tax policy that is fair & provides stable, necessary & adequate revenue to meet the needs of the most vulnerable in our state 
  • Effective oversight & review of state tax credits, exemptions & incentives 
5. Immigration 
  • Comprehensive immigration reform advocated by the Lutheran Immigration & Refugee Service 
6,  Health Care
  • Effective implementation of federal health care reform in New Mexico including Medicaid coverage for adults with income of less than 138% of the FPL beginning in 2014. 
  • Maintaining Medicaid coverage &amp benefits for low-income children & adults currently eligible.
- New Mexico Food and Agriculture Policy Council/Farm to Table

These related organizations will be highlighting New Mexico farmers, local food entrepreneurs, and farmers markets; as well as local farm-to-school programs and other projects that provide healthy food options for New Mexico residents.

A number of initiatives are underway to increase market opportunities for growers while providing healthy food options to New Mexico residents. The collective focus will be on:
  • Food Access
  • Production
  • Distribution
SB 80: NM Grown Produce for School Meals
HB 56: Statewide Cohesive Food Infrastructure
Promote and Develop Farmers' Markets

- New Mexico Voices for Children
2013 Priority Policy Agenda  
  • Tax Fairness and Budget Adequacy
  • Education and Early Learning/Care
  • Healthy and Safe Communities
  • Racial/Ethnic Equity and Civic Participation
  • Economic Security and Prosperity 
(Click here for detailed explanation)

- New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness  
Tier 1 Priorities Include: 
  • Increase state funding by $1 million for services that help people experiencing homelessness obtain and remain in housing 
  • Address administrative and regulatory barriers that make it difficult for people experiencing homelessness to access housing and services 
  • Target existing housing and services resources so that they are being used as effectively as possible to reduce and prevent homelessness.
See full 2012-2013 Advocacy Agenda

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Food Activist Mark Winne Sees Movement Toward More Democratic Food Systems

Mark Winne's passion is to create systems where people are able to buy most of their food at the local level.  He has written books, articles about nutrition, poverty, food access and food justice, including a pieces on hunger that we have posted in this blog.

The Santa Fe-based author and advocate discusses many of these same topics in his blog called Mark's Food Policy Blog,

The move toward promoting consumption of local food has resulted in the increase in the number of food policy councils in North America over the past year or two, a trend that Winne discusses in his latest post.  According to census data released by the Community Food Security Coalition in May 2012, there were 193 such councils, compared with 111 in 2010.  That means that 82 new councils were created during this period.  There are councils for an entire state, a region of a state, and cities like Oakland and Chicago.

Here is what Winne says in his blog

This jump in city, county, state, and tribal level councils sends several important signals to policy makers and food system activists. Perhaps most obvious is that citizens and stakeholders want a bigger role in shaping the direction of their food systems through the policy making process. Just as important, food policy is occupying ever more “real estate” on the radar screens of non-federal policymakers like city mayors, county commissioners, and state political leaders. At least at the local and state levels, there is an evident surge in food democracy. 

Winne provides a link to the existing network of food policy councils.

Just to give you an example of the role of a food policy council, here is a description from the Chicago Food and Policy Advisory Council. The Chicago Food Policy Advisory Council (CFPAC) facilitates the development of responsible policies that improve access for Chicago residents to culturally appropriate, nutritionally sound, and affordable food that is grown through environmentally sustainable practices.  

The Oakland Food Policy Council tries to address a common problem in many low-income neighborhoods (and rural areas), which is the lack of  grocery stores to buy nutritious foods.  These areas are known as food deserts.  The US Department of Agriculture even has a Food Desert locator.

And the Central Oregon Food Policy Council says its mission is to strengthen our Central Oregon communities by securing the future of the local food system through efforts in the following strategic areas:  Healthy Food Access, Networks & Knowledge Sharing, and  Land Use Advocay

And this is from the New Mexico Food and Agriculture Policy Council, which has been around since 2003. The New Mexico Food and Agriculture Policy Council is a democratic organization composed of groups and individuals working on issues around food and agriculture systems. It educates those affected by these issues and develops and advocates for specific policy recommendations and alternatives at the local, state and national levels. 

Winne, who offers technical assistance to Food Policy Councils around the country, expects these type of local organizations to remain a strong voice in the creation of food policy.  "Due to more citizen interest in local and state food policy issues as well as the recognition that just and sustainable food systems don’t happen without intentional action by activists and policy makers, food policy will find itself occupying more space on public policy agendas," said Winne.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Join 25,000 Voices Urging the 113th Congress to Preserve Poverty-Focused Foreign Assistance

The ONE Campaign has put together a clever "Man on the Street" video to keep the issue of poverty focused foreign assistance before the newly installed Congress. "There are a lot of misperceptions about foreign assistance -- but as you'll see, when Americans know the facts, skepticism turns to support," said ONE, in describing the video.

Anti-poverty advocates are urged to send  the video to their senators and representatives (The goal is 25,000 individuals in the U.S.)  to Congress urging our senators and represenatives not to cut vital assistance for agricutlure, AIDS and other vital programs.

Here is the message to Congress:

When asked to guess, Americans respond, on average, that foreign assistance amounts to 12% of the federal budget. Some even say 20% or 50%! You and I both know that it's actually less than 1%. That small percentage helps put 8 million people on AIDS medication and has helped to lift 1 billion people out of poverty. It also sends a message about American values and leadership in the world. ONE's 'Man on the Street' video illustrates the transformative effect this information has on the average American, and I want to share it with you.

When given the facts about foreign assistance, those same American taxpayers become supporters of foreign assistance - they understand that it's a relatively small investment, and it does a world of good.

Check out the video sent to representatives and senators from Western states.

So what can you do?  Send an letter online to your two senators and your representative by clicking on this link  

You might be interested in the videos that were created for anti-poverty advocates in Eastern, Southern and Midwestern states to send to their senators and representatives. 

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

An Early Introduction to A Place at the Table: Bread for the World's 2013 Offering of Letters

In Monday's post, I invited Bread members in New Mexico (and elsewhere) to join me in Washington, D.C. for Lobby Day on June 11. But I didn't mention what requests we would be bringing to our legislators.

I can tell you that our  advocacy efforts will focus on Bread for the World's 2013 Offering of Letters, A Place at the Table,  which will be launched March 2013 to coincide with the release of a feature film of the same name. The film  A Place at the Table is a new documentary from Participant Media (An Inconvenient Truth; Food, Inc; Waiting for Superman) and will be released by Magnolia Pictures. It makes the connection between hunger in America and advocacy for public policies and programs that assure a place at the tablefor everyone.

The  2013 Offering of Letters will also ask members and congregations to join thousands of others in asking President Barack Obama to set a goal and work with Congress to end hunger.

Look for your 2013 Offering of Letters kit in the mail in February.

In the meantime, Click here to download a brief summary of the 2013 Offering of Letters (in PDF format)

And here is a short video to introduce you to the OL.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Lobby Day is on June 11 (And it's Not Too Early to Plan Your Trip to Washington, D.C.)

It's not too early to start planning your trip to Washington, D.C., this summer for Bread for the World's National Gathering and Lobby Day.  The national gathering is scheduled for the second weekend in June, followed by  Lobby Day on June 11.  (Stay tuned for more details)

I urge Bread members from New Mexico to consider making the trip to Washington to join me in our meetings with the staffs of Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, and Reps. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Steve Pearce and Ben Ray Lujan. Hopefully, we'll be able to see the senators and representatives themselves too.  

Heinrich is new to the Senate (even though he served two terms in the House), and Lujan Grisham was just elected to replace Heinrich in the House.  Now that the 113th Congress has been sworn in, we now know the location of the offices for Heinrich and Lujan Grisham.  Heinrich's office will be locate in the Dirksen Senate Office Building.  Lujan Grisham's office is located in the Cannon House Office Building.  

Here is the location of the offices for our two senators and our three representatives.

Sen. Tom Udall
110 Hart Senate Office Building
(202) 224-6621

Sen. Martin Heinrich 
B40D Dirksen Senate Office Building
(202) 224-5521
Click Here  for a list of other Senate Offices

Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham  (NM-1)
Cannon House Office Building 214
 (202) 225-6316

Rep. Seve Pearce (NM-2)
Rayburn House Office Building 2232
(202) 225-2365

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-3)
Rayburn House Office Building 2246
 (202) 225-6190

Click Here  for a list of other House Offices

The 113th Congress will bring new committee assignments for our new and veteran representatives.  We wrote about Sen. Udall's appointment to the Senate Appropriations Committee, and also how Rep. Lujan Grisham landed on the House Agriculture Committee.  Since then, we learned that Lujan Grisham also gained an appointment to the House Budget Committee, and Sen.Heinrich will serve on the Joint Economic Committee of the Senate and House.  Sen. Heinrich is also on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Other significant moves: Rep. Ben Ray Luján has been appointed a chief deputy whip for the Democratic caucus in the 113rd Congress. Whips are responsible for mobilizing the party vote on important bills before they come to the floor for a vote. They also act as a liaison between members and the caucus to build support for the Democratic agenda. Rep. Lujan is on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Rep. Steve Pearce, who is on the House Financial Services Committee, was recently appointed chair of the Congressional Western Caucus.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Oxfam Hunger Banquet in Albuquerque Rescheduled to February 2

New Mexico Oxfam Action Corps has rescheduled its Hunger Banquet to Saturday, February 2. The event had originally been scheduled for Saturday, January 19.  

The time and place is still the same:
St. Thomas of Canterbury Episcopal Church 
425 University Boulevard NE
6:00-8:00 p.m.

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

Farm to Restaurant Benefit at Il Piatto in Santa Fe on January 24

Farm to Table invites you to join advocates of local food in Santa Fe for feast of winter crops prepared by renowned chef, Matt Yohalem.  

Thursday, January 24
Il Piatto's Farmhouse Wine Cellar 
95 West Marcy Street
Drinks and hor d'ouvres at 6:00 p.m.
Multi-course sit-down dinner at 6:30 p.m.
Buy your tickets here 
(Hurry, Farm to Restaurant dinners sell-out fast).

The dinner is a benefit for Farm to Table's Farm to Restaurant program, which promotes a viable food system in northern New Mexico by connecting heritage farmers in northern New Mexico to the unique and enchanting restaurants of Santa Fe. The program , which received an award from Sustainable Santa Fe in April of this year. assists small to mid-sized regional farmers in expanding markets for their vegetables, fruit and dairy; securing sustainability for the irreplaceable and age-old tradition of farming in New Mexico.  At the same time, the program helps restaurants in and near Santa Fe source the highest quality, most nutritious and flavorful ingredients.

Tickets are $75.00 with proceeds going to the Farm to Restaurant Program.  Farm to Restaurant would like to thank Chef Matt Yohalem for underwriting this event.

For more information contact  Nina Yozell-Epstein,  (505) 819.3518 

Saturday, January 05, 2013

'Fiscal Cliff' Deal: The Aftermath

From Feeding America's Facebook page
With a sigh of relief, we watched members of House of Representatives in the 112th Congress approve an emergency budget deal between President Barack Obama's administration and the Senate.

The deal, which passed the Senate 89 to 8 and the House 257 to 167, extends most of the tax cuts that technically expired on Dec. 31.

The agreement is mostly good for low-income people in our country because it includes a five-year extension on improvements made to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) over the last decade, providing support to low-income working families. Preserving these tax credits was part of Bread for the World Offering of Letters in 2012.

"Republicans have been trying to limit the reach and effectiveness of both of these tax credits all year (and some Democrats indicated an openness to that position, especially with regard to the CTC)," said columnist Greg Kaufman, who writes about poverty issues for The Nation magazine. "Getting a five-year extension on both—as well as for the American Opportunity Tax Credit that helps make college tuition more affordable—was certainly not a given heading into these negotiations."

Kaufman said the decision of Congress not to cut food stamp benefits represents another victory.  "A program that responded to the recession exactly as it was designed to do—lifting nearly 4 million people above the poverty line in 2011—was facing proposed cuts of $12 billion in the House and $4 billion in the Senate," said Kaufman. "It was feared in recent months that cuts might be included in any “Grand Bargain” at a moment when one in five children experience hunger. Instead, activists, advocates and political leaders continue the fight to protect and strengthen the program."  Read Kaufman's article,‘Cliff’ Deal is a Decent Start for Low-Income Americans.

Creating a Circle of Protection around domestic nutrition programs was also part of Bread's 2012 letter-writing campaign.

A third important decision that Congress made in the deal was to  extend emergency unemployment benefits for one year, preventing an estimated 2 million people from losing unemployment benefits just a week after Christmas.

Anti-Poverty Advocates Generally Pleased
Many organizations that serve or advocate on behalf of low-income people welcomed the House vote on New Year's Eve.

“The imperfect deal that Congress approved is far from a comprehensive deficit-reduction plan that puts the country on a fiscally sustainable course,” said Bread for the World President David Beckmann. “However, it steers clear of a tax increase for the majority of tax payers, thus reducing the economic risk of going over the fiscal cliff. It also protects unemployment insurance and tax credits for low-income working people.” Read more in Fiscal Deal Minimizes Negative Impact on Poor People

"This year-end deal is a good step forward for working poor families," Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of the Catholic Social Justice lobby NETWORK and the organizer of the Nuns on the Bus campaign, said in a comment posted on The Nation.

Feeding America, in its Facebook page, posted a Thank You note to Congress for protecting SNAP benefits.

So what else is in this budget agreement?  The Washington Post blog crated  gives us the Fiscal Deal Cheat Sheet.

Here are a few of the highlights.

— The 2009 expansion of tax breaks for low-income Americans: the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit, and the American Opportunity Tax Credit will be extended for five years. \
— Federal unemployment insurance will be extended for another year, benefiting those unemployed for longer than 26 weeks. This $30 billion provision won’t be offset.
— A nine-month farm bill fix will be attached to the deal, Sen. Debbie Stabenow told reporters, averting the newly dubbed milk cliff
— The sequester will be delayed for two months. Half of the delay will be offset by discretionary cuts, split between defense and non-defense. The other half will be offset by revenue raised by the voluntary transfer of traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs, which would tax retirement savings when they’re moved over.

It's Not Over
That last point is reason for concern.  The decision does not avoid, but merely delays, a sequester involving across-the-board budget cuts. “The sequester would impact our development efforts overseas, reducing vulnerable peoples’ access to vital food aid,” warned Beckmann. “It could also result in hundreds of thousands of low-income women and young children losing WIC benefits here in the United States.”

"Now that there has begun to be a little balance of raising revenue to offset the tremendous cuts in domestic spending already made in earlier deals, the next deal should be based on $1 of additional revenue for every $1 of cuts," said Sister Simone Campbell. 

This means that the newly installed 113th Congress, which took office on Jan. 3, has a lot to accomplish between now and the beginning of March.  Read more about what lies ahead  from Slate magazine.  And stay tuned for updates about opportunities to stay in touch with Congress over the next several weeks.

Friday, January 04, 2013

PBS Series 'The Visionaries' Features Church World Service

The Visionaries, a series produced by public television station WGBY, has chosen Church World Service as the focus of the initial segement  for the program's 18th season. The segment features the work of a CWS program in Nairobi, Kenya.  (You probably know that the money you raise through the Crop Walks contributes to the work of CWS).

"The Visionaries public television series  is  really about uncovering what's right with the world," said  Jody Santos, director and producer of the CWS segment.  "Every documentary that we produce has that mission, and every documentary focuses on the work of one non-profit."   

Santos gives high praise to CWS  "We were really impressed with the vision,and how welll you articulated the vision for a world in which no child goes hungry, a world in which something like social justice exists, but [also] on your ability on a one-to-one bases to carry out that misison," Santos said.

The series has been broadcast o Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) stations since 1995.  Click here to see clips from an impressive list of documentaries posted since then. I'm not sure when the CWS feature and other segments will air  on  the two PBS stations in New Mexico, KNME in Albuquerque and  KENW in Portales. The two stations on not listed  on this site.  But schedules are fluid, so keep checking back on the site and also on the Web sites for KNME and KENW.  

In the meantime, here is a trailer for the segment featuring CWS.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

New Mexico House Members Vote Along Party Lines on Budget Deal

By now you know that the House of Representatives easily approved the budget deal negotiated by the Senate and President Obama's administration.  The measure, officially H.R.8, was passed last night by a margin of 90 votes (257-167).

With the Republicans holding a large majority in the 112th Congress, this means that many members of the GOP voted in favor of the measure (although several Democrats who were not happy with the terms of the legislation voted against it).  Bread for the World had urged members to contact their legislators asking them to support the measure.

Still, for the most part, legislators voted along party lines, and this was reflected in the vote of our three members of the House.  Reps. Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Lujan voted for the measure, and Rep. Steve Pearce cast a nay vote.    See full breakdown

Here are some quotes from our three legislators via The Albuquerque Journal.

"None of us are happy with every provision in the legislation, but it was imperative that we take action to prevent catastrophic and irreparable harm to the nation’s economy and our middle class."  -Rep. Martin Heinrich.

“I cannot support this or any plan that doesn’t provide a solution,” said Pearce. “Washington doesn’t have a tax problem, it has a spending problem. The President has said we shouldn’t raise taxes in a recession, because he understands that no matter who we tax, it will slow our economy without fixing our debt problem. Still, this is exactly what he proposes we do."  -Rep. Steve Pearce

“Like many New Mexicans, I am disappointed with how this process played out during a Congress that has created one manufactured crisis after another.  This plan is far from perfect and I do not support all of its elements, however, it represents a compromise that protects middle-class families in New Mexico from seeing their income taxes increase and it ensures that those struggling to find work during this difficult time will continue to have support,” -Rep. Ben Ray Lujan

January is Poverty Awareness Month

Now that you've toasted the New Year and spent some time with family, I would like to bring to your attention a campaign from Poverty USA, an initiative of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD).

So nn this first day of the first month of 2013,  I would like to ask you to pause for a second (before you return to watching a bowl game or two), to reflect on the fact that Poverty USA has designated January as  Poverty Awareness Month. 

To help us keep track, here is Interactive Calendar hat the CCHD put together.

Here are some selected entries.

This one is for today,  January 2
Take the PovertyTour to see what life is like for a family of four living at the poverty line in the United States. Then share the Poverty Tour on Facebook!

On January 3
Poverty is a big problem, but there are policies that help. Learn what some of those policies are, then advocate for them.

On January 9
How much do you know about poverty in the United States? Take the Poverty Quiz to find out.

On January 11
On the Poverty Map, you can plug in your state or county to learn the facts about poverty in your own community. 

On January 20
 How much do you know about Catholic social teaching—a living tradition which inspires our work for justice? Read about it and listen to some great podcasts.

On January 31
As disciples of Christ living in the world, we are called to participate in public life year round, in an ongoing way. How are you called to participate?

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Call TODAY to Urge Your House Member to Support the Senate-Administration Budget Deal

The Senate welcomed the new year by overwhelmingly voting to keep our country from falling into a fiscal cliff.  Among the 89 senators who voted yay on this measure were Sens. Tom Udall and Jeff Bngaman from New Mexico.  Read more from Roll Call.

Bread for the World's government relations director Eric Mitchell tells us some of the important provisions that were in the compromise reached by the Senate and President Barack Obama's administraition.

Specifically, the bill accomplishes the following:
  • Extends the current Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit benefit levels for five years, including the 2009 improvements. This is something Bread for the World has been pushing for over the past three years and represents an enormous victory.
  • Extends emergency unemployment benefits for one year, preventing 2 million people from losing unemployment benefits just one week after Christmas.
Both provisions expire if Congress does not act now, and it's up to the House of Representatives. We need you to call your representative at 1-800-862-3688. Tell your member to pass the deal!

The House is voting today (read more from CNN), so PLEASE MAKE YOUR CALL NOW.  The Capitol switchboard is open on New Year's Day. 

The urgency of the matter means that the vote is in the hands of the 112th Congress, whose mandate runs through Jan. 3, 2013.  For those of us in the New Mexico First Congressional District, that means that our call should still go to Rep. Martin Heinrich (who is moving to the Senate in the 113th Congress on Jan. 3).  And of course, if you live in Las Cruces or anywhere in the Second District, call Rep. Steve Pearce; and if you're in Santa Fe or any community in the Third District, contact Rep. Ben Ray Lujan.

If you call the Capitol Switchboard, you might get a busy signal.  An alternate way to communicate your message is on the member's Web site: Martin Heinrich,, Steve Pearce, Ben Ray Lujan
or on their Facebook page: Martin Heinrich, Steve Pearce, Ben Ray Lujan
on Twitter @Heinrich4NM, @RepStevePearce, @repbenraylujan

Here is more information on why this vote is so important for our anti-hunger and anti-poverty work:

The deal postpones for two months the "sequester" (across-the-board cuts) that was mandated by the Budget Control Act last year. The sequester would cut some anti-poverty programs. Cuts to some international development programs would literally cost lives. But some of the biggest anti-poverty programs—including SNAP ( formerly food stamps), child nutrition programs, tax credits for poor working families, and Medicaid—are exempted from sequestration. Bread for the World will be working in the coming months on a more thoughtful approach to spending cuts and protecting poverty-focused international development assistance and WIC."

Read Eric Mitchell's full post in the Bread blog. 

Keep in mind that if any future decisions on the budget and the Circle of Protection will likely fall on  the 113th Congress, which officially takes office on Jan. 3. This means that our future communication on this issue would be with  Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham.  Other folks around the country will also be dealing with a new House member.  According to Roll Call, the House of Representatives will have 83 new members in the 113th Congress.  There will also be 12 new senators, including Heinrich.