Monday, August 03, 2020

Video: SNAP Matters More Than Ever

Joseph Llobrera of the Center for Public Policy and Priorities (CBPP), explains explains that due to the economic crisis, “rising food need and higher food prices are making it even tougher for many to make ends meet.” Growing numbers of households are reporting difficulty affording food and meeting other basic needs. Particularly alarming is the rise in the number of children whose families report that they aren’t getting enough to eat, which can have long-term consequences for their health and well-being. And, due to longstanding inequities exacerbated by COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on Black and Latino communities, families of color are likelier to struggle to afford enough food.


Friday, July 31, 2020

Video: A Collective Effort to Fight Hunger in New Mexico

Lilly Irvin-Vitela, executive director of New Mexico First, was the guest presenter at the Interfaith Hunger Coalition's Zoom meeting on July 27, 2020. Lilly spoke about the ongoing collective anti-hunger efforts in New Mexico before and during the COVID-19 health emergency and into the future. The actual presentation with announcements starts at about 7:00 minute mark, and Lilly's talk starts at the 13:00 minute mark

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Comparative Overall Hunger Data: Feeding America Report

Source: The Impact of Coronavirus on Food Insecurity  National Reports  Maps

Comparative Child Hunger Data (Feeding America Report)

Source: The Impact of Coronavirus on Food Insecurity  National Reports  Maps

Study Shows Pandemic Could Greatly Increase New Mexico Hunger

Pre-pandemic, here in New Mexico – 315,990 people, including 114,180 children, did not have adequate access to nutritious food to live a healthy life. However, this new study demonstrates that this number is likely to grow 118,580, including 48,780 children. That means approximately 434,570 or 21 percent of New Mexican people (1 in 5) may experience food insecurity in 2020, including 162,960 children (1 in 3).
Roadrunner Food Bank (RRFB) last week issued a dire forecast of the magnitude of  hunger and food insecurity in New Mexico this year because of the COVID-19 health emergency and related economic downturn. The RRFB projection is based on the Feeding America report, The Impact of the Coronavirus on Local Food Insecurity, which projected rates for every state.

According to RRFB, one in five adults and one in five chidren could face hunger in 2020 because of COVID-19.

Here is a RRFB news release on July 16.

"The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic will have had a devastating impact on people facing hunger across the country and in New Mexico according to a new study by Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief organization. This study is the first of its kind to explore how food insecurity rates at the local level may increase in 2020 due to COVID-19.

The Impact of the Coronavirus on Local Food Insecurity analyzes food insecurity rates for the overall population and children by state, county and congressional district. Pre-pandemic, here in New Mexico – 315,990 people, including 114,180 children, did not have adequate access to nutritious food to live a healthy life. However, this new study demonstrates that this number is likely to grow 118,580, including 48,780 children. That means approximately 434,570 or 21 percent of New Mexican people (1 in 5) may experience food insecurity in 2020, including 162,960 children (1 in 3).

“Families continue to reel from the impact this pandemic created — devastating their income and finances. New Mexico families are struggling to afford all their family needs including food,” said Mag Strittmatter, president and CEO of Roadrunner Food Bank. “As unemployment remains high, we will continue to work and provide food to communities across our state so that none of our neighbors who are hungry are left out. So many of our friends and neighbors are living a life-changing event that brought them face-to-face with hunger for the first time in their lives.”

This new analysis was conducted by building upon the approach Feeding America used in two earlier briefs to predict changes to national food insecurity rates for the overall population and children in response to changes to poverty and unemployment. The annual projected unemployment rate (11.5%) is within close range of expert estimates when annualized, including those from a monthly Wall Street Journal survey of more than 60 economists as of May (11.6%), the Congressional Budget Office (11.4%), and Goldman Sachs Global Investment Research (10.3%), and represents an increase of 7.6 percentage points.

To account for local unemployment variation, this new analysis adjusts the projected national unemployment increase for likely job loss due to COVID-19 based on an analysis of projected changes in the unemployment rate by industry and occupation by Goldman Sachs Investment Research. The projected local unemployment change for New Mexico is 8.4 percent points. Current local data from New Mexico Workforce Solutions shows unemployment in April at 11.4 percent and May at 8.8 percent in the state.

The underlying analysis for the food insecurity projections was conducted by Dr. Craig Gundersen using the model developed for Map the Meal Gap, Feeding America’s annual study of local food insecurity and food cost in the United States."

Key findings for New Mexico from the report 
  • Luna and McKinley counties have the highest expected rates of hunger during the pandemic with nearly 28 percent of the population at risk of experiencing hunger. 
  • Catron, Luna and McKinley counties have the highest expected childhood hunger rate during the pandemic with more than 44 percent of children in those three counties at risk of hunger.  
  • County by County Data    Overall Hunger    Child Hunger
Community Assistance Needed
With resources stretched to the limit, Roadrunner Food Bank continues to ask the community to help meet the ongoing need expected to impact our state throughout this year and potentially next. Families will struggle to recover lost income over many months of no or very little work, as they attempt to balance the needs of their family’s needs with the continuation of this ongoing pandemic.

Ways to Help
  • Give Funds – Financial contributions go much further in moments like these, and support will help to provide funding to obtain what is needed most. 
  •  Give Time – Register for a volunteer shift through the food bank website at rrfb.org, or call 505.349.8841 or 505.349.8837 during business hours Monday – Friday from 8 am to 4 pm, and Saturday’s from 8 am to 2 pm. 
  • Give Food – Non-perishable food donations will be accepted at the food bank during business hours. Community members who are ill or experiencing any symptoms of an illness should arrange for another person to deliver food donations to the food bank. As the food bank fleet must remain focused on delivering food, food pick-ups will not be available.

Thursday, July 09, 2020

The Feast Meant for Everyone

(words & music by Sarah Hart and Tom Booth)
 
Bread for the immigrant, 
Bread for the poor
Bread for the hungry who beg at our door
Food for the outcast, waiting to belong
Come to the Feast Meant for Everyone...

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Fellowship in the Desert Hosts Hunger 101 Workshop Online

The Interfaith Hunger Coalition over the past few years has organized several Hunger 101 workshops in partnership with a number of congregations (First Presbyterian Church, Holy Rosary Catholic Church, Congregation Albert, the Albuquerque Baha'i Center) and organizations (Church Women United, the Jewish Community Center and Presbyterian Women).

We had been planning another one of these workshops with Chavurat Hamidbar (Fellowship in the Desert) in April. But then the COVID-19 health emergency occurred in the U.S. in March, which forced us to postpone the workshop.

We regrouped during the summer and put together a Zoom workshop.  Below is the video of a portion of the workshop, courtesy of Leora Jaeger-Siegel.

Thursday, July 02, 2020

A Great Summary of the New Mexico Legislature's Special Session

The New Mexico Food and Agriculture Policy Council, one of the participants in a broad coalition to address hunger in New Mexico, on Wednesday released a great summary of the NM State Legislature's special session.

The Legislature met on June 18-20 to adjust the state budget, which took a hit because of the health emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of decline in revenues and plunge in oil prices, the Legislature was charged with adjusting the budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year, which began on July 1.

The budget became official on June 30 when Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the final appropriations bill HB1, General Appropriations Act and issed the Governor's Message, which provides guidance to all agencies as to budget cuts and redirection of specific priorities of the Governor.

Just prior to the Special Session, the NMFAPC submitted a letter to legislators who had sponsored the NMFAPC's priority legislation requesting that they hold programs whole and minimize cuts. The NMFAPC alsopartnered with New Mexico First and the broad anti-hunger coalition to share collective priorities with all New Mexico legislators and the Office of the Governor.

Here are some excerpts from the NMFAPC report, courtesy of Pam Roy.  

Budget mandated cuts of 4-6% for agencies
The majority of the NMFAPC priorities stayed within agency budgets yet will see cuts of four to six percent depending on the agency. The priority agriculture programs administered by the NM Department of Agriculture, including support for farmers' markets and local promotion programs, Soil and Water Conservation Districts program funds, and the healthy soils program, will be subject to the NMDA four percent cuts.

Pilot fund does not survive
Unfortunately, the Agriculture and Natural Resources Pilot Fund of $1.8 million did not survive the cuts. NM State University faces a four percent cut across all programs. Our priorities to continue funding for the NM Cooperative Extension Services and Experimental Stations are within the NMSU budget.

Special Programs Preserved
New Mexico Grown Fruits and Vegetables for School Meals appropriation of $400,000 and the Elimination of Co-pays for School Breakfast and Lunch of $650,000 were maintained in the NM Public Education Department budget. They will be subject to the agency percent cuts. This is a relief, as the Legislative Finance Committee had recommended cuts of 50 percent to both programs.

Reduction in Special Senior Fund
The new Kiki Saavedra Senior Dignity Fund was sanded by $1 million leaving a balance of $6.3 million to initiate a wide variety of programs that will benefit seniors across New Mexico. It is our request that the New MexicoGrown Fruits and Vegetables for Senior Meal Programs be considered for a modest amount of funding to launch a statewide program, building on the successful pilot program just completed.

Summary: The NMFAPC looks forward to working with the full NMFAPC and agencies to make sure budget cuts are equitable and no priority programs get cut. Most important is the work ahead of us into 2021and beyond.

Friday, June 19, 2020

NM Special Session: Urge Legislators to Preserve Critical Funding

Here is the text of a message that New Mexico First sent out for the special session.  The requests are based on priorities identified by the Food, Hunger, Water, and Agricultural Policy Workgroup and New Mexico Food and Agriculture Policy Council.  

Our volunteer legislators and committed public servants at the Legislative Finance Committee have been presented with tough decisions during very trying times. We sincerely appreciate and respect their service on behalf of New Mexico. Before the session, a coalition of coalitions and multi-stakeholder groups worked together to identify policy and funding priorities in light of the pandemic.

The Food, Hunger, Water, and Agricultural Policy Workgroup and New Mexico Food and Agriculture Policy Council and members of our coalition/council have affirmed the need to support the following priorities.  Please act now and contact your legislators and encourage policymakers to consider alternatives to the Legislative Finance Committee's recommendation to cut these critical programs.

Investing in Healthy Food Systems
We are also concerned about recommended cuts in funding to some of the critical infrastructure that bolsters agriculture in New Mexico through programs like the NM Cooperative Extension Services and Agricultural Experimentation Stations.

At a time when national supply chain issues have impacted access to food, investing in healthy local food systems is critical and while a 4% cut is less than some other proposed cut, short-sighted at a time when agriculture needs more support than ever as a critical part of our economy and as a social determinant of public health. Similarly, the proposed cuts to the NM Department of Agriculture can affect support for farmers' markets and promotion programs, Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and the healthy soil program. Cuts to these programs can impact the ability to leverage federal and philanthropic investments, risking significant progress that has been achieved to build local markets and sustain our natural resources to support food production.

School Meals
LFC's recommendation to step back from the Elimination of Co-pays for School Breakfast and Lunch with a less significant investment than the $650K appropriated during the regular session is profoundly concerning. With childhood hunger increasing, this recommendation is counter to our shared commitments to address child hunger.

NM Grown Fruits and Vegetables for School Meals: Legislature Appropriations: $400K: LFC recommended a decrease to $204K (bottom of p. 19), which is a big cut. We know that the NM Public Education Department has commitments to 58 School Food Authorities for the $400K (if it can be maintained) to start purchasing NM grown fruits and vegetables for school meals over the coming months. NM PED received more than $750K in requests. As we know, this is an economic driver for farmers who have already planted their fields in preparation to sell to schools and senior centers. School districts are shifting the ways they prepare and provide school meals, yet they are still planning to buy local produce to incorporate into meal programs.

Meals for Seniors
We are very excited about the Kiki Saavedra Senior Dignity Fund that the Legislature appropriated $7.3M. We see that the LFC has recommended a $1M decrease. We hope this program will be maintained even if there is a cut. As a state with one of the fastest-growing senior populations, and we are seeing so many more needs for seniors through the lens of COVID-19, we look forward to the Kiki Saavedra Program being of benefit to many. We believe this is the right type of funding to help build the NM Grown Fruits and Vegetables for Senior Meal Programs. We just finalized a three-county (Sandoval, Socorro, and San Juan) pilot project with the Aging and Long Term Services Department, senior centers, and farmers. Even amid COVID-19, 15 senior centers served 6,160 meals weekly (curbside and home-delivered), incorporating $50,000 of New Mexico grown produce in the meals. A small request of the Kiki Fund could really benefit the growth of this program across the state!

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Broad Coalition Urges Senate Leaders to Boost SNAP During Crisis

Nearly 2,500 organizations from across the country signed on to a letter urging the Senate to boost SNAP benefits in the next coronavirus relief package. 

The letter asks for a 15 percent boost in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) maximum benefit, an increase in the SNAP minimum monthly benefit from $16 to $30, and a suspension of SNAP time limits and rules changes that would cut SNAP eligibility and benefits.  

Read press release from the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC)
 
Among the national organizations singing the letter are Bread for the World, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), Islamic Relief USA,  the Episcopal Church, Challah for Hunger, 1,000 Days, A Place at the Table, Meals on Wheels America, Children's Defense Fund, and hundreds more. 

The New Mexico signators include some participants in the Food, Hunger, Water and Agriculture Policy Work Group, including Agri-Cultura Cooperative Network, Feeding Santa Fe, Inc., New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, New Mexico First, New Mexico Healthy Soils Working Group, Roadrunner Food Bank, and the Food Depot.

Here is an excerpt 

June 18, 2020 
The Honorable Mitch McConnell 
Senate Majority Leader
U.S. Senate
U.S. Senate S-230, 
U.S. Capitol Building
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Chuck Schumer 
Senate Minority Leader  
U.S. Senate S-221, 
U.S. Capitol Building  
Washington, DC 20510 

Dear Majority Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Schumer, 

Our nearly 2,500 undersigned national, regional, state, and local organizations urge immediate action to address the twin challenges of COVID-19 — protecting individuals and communities against hardship and jump-starting a strong economic recovery. SNAP benefit boosts can help limit the depth and duration of the human and economic tolls this crisis threatens to exact. 

COVID-19 has exacerbated already too high levels of food insecurity in America. According to the Urban Institute, in the early weeks of the pandemic, one in five U.S. adults experienced food insecurity

Also, in the early weeks of COVID-19, Labor Department data document that one of every four workers filed for unemployment insurance; the April unemployment rate hit 14.7 percent; and the combined rate of unemployed, discouraged, and part-time for economic reasons workers spiked above 22 percent.

Sufficient and timely federal government action is needed to prevent even more human suffering and lost productivity in the short and longer terms. 

SNAP is a proven countercyclical tool. Each $1 of SNAP benefits during a downturn generates between $1.50 and $1.80 in economic activity. Participants spend those benefits quickly, with positive impacts felt up and down the food chain — from farmers and food producers, to grocery retailers, stock clerks, and local economies.  

The lines for food at emergency feeding sites offer a picture of the human suffering that data can only begin to explain. This crisis demands a response that is commensurate with its scope and seriousness. For every one meal provided through the Feeding America food bank network, SNAP can provide nine meals on the normal rails of commerce. SNAP boosts must be an important part of an effective, comprehensive response to COVID-19.

 Here is the full letter and see the full list of signators

Friday, June 12, 2020

Study Tracks Food Insecurity in New Mexico, U.S. During Health Crisis

The COVID-19 emergency has resulted in a dramatic increase in food insecurity in every one of our 50 states, although the extent of the increase varies by state.

According to a study put together by the Institute for Policy Research (IPR) at Northwestern University in Illinois, using data from, the Census  Household Pulse Survey (CHHPS), food insecurity during COVID-19 is almost 2.15 times what it was prior to the onset of the national health emergency.

"More than 1 in 10 households reported receiving free food in Hawaii and New Mexico," said the IPR study, which contains data for each of the 50 states.

"Mississippi and Louisiana recorded the highest estimates of food insecurity during COVID-19, at 31.6% and 30.1%, respectively. Vermont, with 14.1% food insecure, is the only state with a food insecurity rate below 15%," said the study.

Below are a few numbers from a table contained in the report. The middle column illustrates the dramatic increase in need in New Mexico. According to the study, the projected rate of food insecurity in our state was just below 15% in February of this year. The rate for the April-May period was recordeded at 27.6%.

   
Food Insecurity: Dec. 2018Predicted Food Insecurity: Feb. 2020Food Insecurity: April–May 2020Ratio:
Feb. vs. April-May
Received Free Food, Prior 7 Days



New Mexico
15.7%   14.9%     27.6%1.8611.6%
U.S. Total
11.1% 10.8%   23.0%2.127.3%









Loss of Jobs
A parallel IPR report linked the increased food insecurity in large measure to the loss of jobs during the pandemic. "The COVID-19 health emergency has led to a sharp economic slowdown, with soaring unemployment and spikes in need as illustrated by news reports of miles-long lines at food pantries," said the report.

"We find that food insecurity has doubled overall, and tripled among households with children. Food insecurity is elevated across all states, with some states experiencing extremely high rates and/or increases in food insecurity. Across the nation, 7% of households reported receiving free food during the prior week," added the IPR.

"During the COVID-19 health emergency, the rate of food insecurity for households with children more than tripled to 29.5%," said the report. "Approximately half of this increase can be explained by the increase in the unemployment rate.”

See the report for a more complete discussion of the IPR methodology.

Tuesday, June 09, 2020

God Delivers, but We are Asked to Be Part of the Process

"For surely I know the plans I have for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope for you, says the Lord." Jeremiah 29:11

"When we hear God say through the prophets, For Surely, we believe and the Hebrews believed that this is a certainty...They never lost sight and never lost faith in the fact that God would ultimately deliver on God's promises to them."

"One of my favorite parables--It's recorded as a miracle in the Gospels--the feeding of the 5,000, the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. A Jesus scholar, John Dominic Crossen, shares that story, not as a miracle so much as a parable. What would happen if we take the loaves and the fishes or any resources that we have and actually bless them and then distribute them as a blessing of Jesus.

The people were invited to have all that they had in order to feed all who were there. And Jesus could have waived a hand. The miracle would have been that suddenly enough fishes and loaves appeared...But there's a process that requires our active participation. Jesus said, "Give me what you have.' They brought it forward, he blessed it, and then he said, "You go and distribute it, you do the work." Once they distributed it in accordance with Jesus wanted them to do, there was not only enough, but there was an abundance.  An abundance of sufficiency in baskets left over..."

Monday, June 08, 2020

Healing the Divide

Screenshots of Healing the Divide Session at Bread's 2020 Advocacy Summit. Moderated by regional organizers Clark Hansen (below) and Zach Schmidt. Some ideas drawn from “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion” by Jonathan Haidt.

Clark Hansen
Zach Schmidt

Diaspora, Advocacy and the Certainty that Things are not Right Yet

"For surely I know the plans I have for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope for you, says the Lord." Jeremiah 29:11

"Diaspora is the constant reminder that you are not at home.  Are you in the diaspora?...Those of us who believe in advocacy are people who know that we have not yet come home, that we are still in the diaspora. That there is still more to do for the city where the city where we live to prosper. We are a non-comformist people. That is why we knock (on) doors on the Hill, that is why we write our members of Congress. That is why we organize communities and individuals to speak out about hunger and poverty, because we are not there yet." 

"Verse 11 of Jeremiah 29 is healing.  For this strong sense of the diaspora that we are experiencing these days  That certainty that things are not right. That we cannot hear the dreams of certain prophets anymore. That the voice of the streets does not agree with the voice of the palace. That it's time for a change. And this is a constant invitation in the sacred test: Do not conform the pattern of this world.

"Gracias a Dios, Thanks be to God, we come to verse 11.  For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster. To give you a future and hope. "