Saturday, March 01, 2014

Hunger 101: The Beginning of the Conversation

Hanh Nguyen and Rev. Daniel Gutierrez
There were about 90 people in the fellowship hall of First Presbyterian Church on a Sunday afternoon in February to engage in a conversation about how communities of faith in Albuquerque and elsewhere in New Mexico can work together to address hunger in our communities.

The meeting was organized by the newly formed Interfaith Hunger Coalition, and a goal was to create a space for people of faith to offer ideas and proposals on how we could work together to address hunger. Check out our new Facebook page.

Some of those in the room were pastors and rabbis and others were representatives of agencies like CatholicCharities, but the vast majority  were people who sit in the pews, chair mission committees, volunteer at food pantries, work in the community, support community gardens and are involved in many more activities to help people directly. There were also a few children and families and retired individuals..

Many Congregations Represented

Rev. Trey Hammond, La Mesa Presbyterian Church

They came from many faith communities La Mesa Presbyterian Church, East Central Ministries, Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, Congregation Albert, Holy Family Catholic Church, Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, All Saints Lutheran Church, First Congregational Church, Albuquerque Mennonite Church, Congregation B'nai Israel, Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Catholic Church, Central United Methodist Church, St. Paul Lutheran Church, First Presbyterian Church, Community of Hope, Annunciation Catholic Church, St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, Aquinas Newman Center Catholic Church, among others.

From Ruth Hoffman's powerpoint
Before the conversations began, we heard the personal story of Tony Pelletier, a member of the Community of Hope, who told us about how he and his wife Julie at times had coped with hunger.

Then three experts offered the big picture of hunger in New Mexico. Ruth Hoffman from the Lutheran Advocacy Ministry-New Mexico; Nancy Pope, founder of the Collaboration to End Hunger and consultant for Share Our Strength; and Kathy Komoll of the New Mexico Association of Food Banks offered some perspectives and background on the circumstances that have contributed to a high level of food insecurity in our state.

Working on Immediate Needs and Systemic Problems
Kathy Komoll
After a question-and-answer session, the congregation was offered an opportunity to provide input of what steps the coalition should take.  The sense in the room was that we should become involved in a broad range of activities ranging from food recovery efforts, working to improve food stamps, pushing for consolidation of services, increasing food resources during the summer months and promoting community gardens.  All of those immediate actions will be on our agenda, but we will be working on advocacy and strategies to change the system that promotes hunger and poverty, including wage issues.  Stay Tuned

Bayla Brookins, Rachel Brookins,  Congregation Albert

Andy Najar, B.J. Jones, Catholic Charities
Rev. Donna McNiel, New Mexico Conference of Churches, chats with a participant

Deacon Santos Abeyta, Holy Family Catholic Church
Nancy Pope chats with Kathy Komoll
Rabbi Arthur Flicker of B'nai Israel offered the closing prayer