Wednesday, April 27, 2022

The Hunger Caucus and Related Initiatives in the 2022 Legislature

What were the legislative outcomes for food, hunger, agriculture and human needs initiatives in the 2022 New Mexico State Legislature? The most significant and far-reaching measure approved in the past legislative session was the Food, Farms and Hunger initiative promoted by a broad anti-hunger coalition in collaboration with the governor's office and legislators. The effort resulted in approval of a $24 million package in anti-hunger and related measures ia the state budget. Listen to Pam Roy of the New Mexico Food and Agriculture Policy Council, Kurt Rager of the Lutheran Advocacy Ministry-New Mexico, and State Rep. Joanne Ferrary talk about these initiatives. Rep. Ferrary also gave us an update on the Legislative Hunger Caucus.

Wednesday, March 09, 2022

Dozens of State Legislators Sign on to Hunger Caucus in 2022

Several dozen members of the New Mexico House of Representatives and a handful of members of the State Senate committed to address hunger in New Mexico by agreeing to join the Legislative Hunger Caucus. Rep. Joanne Ferrary of Las Cruces (shown at left), who has played a major leadership role in creating and promoting this informal body within the State Legislature, developed the mission statement below.

The legislators added their names to the Hunger Caucus document at a gathering in the Roundhouse a few weeks before the start of the 2022 session of the New Mexico State Legislature.

Here is the statement at the top of the document that legislators signed. 

Below is the list of legislators (in alphabetical order) who added their names to the Hunger Caucus list this year. The legislators represent all corners of our state. Each legislator has a hyperlink leading to their page on the NM State Legislature, including an e-mail address (in case you want to send them a thank you note). One legislator--former Rep. Brittany Barreras--left the Legislature this year and is no longer listed on the Legislature's page.

House

Eliseo Alcon          Anthony Allison         Phelps Anderson      Karen Bash   

Kay Bounkeua      Micaela Lara Cadena   Gail Chasey             Meredith Dixon

Daymon Ely          Joanne Ferrary              Natalie Figueroa      Doreen Gallegos  

Harry Garcia          Miguel Garcia              Joy Garratt               Susan Herrera

Pamelya Herndon   Day Hochman Vigil    D. Wanda Johnson   Raymundo Lara

Derick Lente         Tara Lujan                    Willy Madrid          Antonio Maestas

Javier Martinez     Marian Matthews         Roger Montoya       Kristina Ortez

Andrea Romero   Patricia Roybal Caballero   Angelica Rubio   Debbie Sariñana

Linda Serrato       Nathan Small             Candie Sweetser          Christine Trujillo

Liz Thomson 

Former Rep.  Brittany Barreras

Senate 

 Martin Hickey         Linda Lopez       

 Gerald Ortiz y Pino   Harold Pope          Shannon Pinto        

Antoinette Sedillo Lopez  Liz Stefanics         Bill Tallman 

Other Senators who signed an earlier more informal document

Bill Burt     Jacob Candelaria    Carrie Hamblen   

Stuart Ingle'    Daniel Ivey-Soto   Gay Kernan

George Muñoz   Bill Soule  Jeff Steinborn   

 Mimi Stewart   Peter Wirth     Pat Woods

The list includes former Sens. Carlos Cisneros, Jim White and Gabriel Ramos

Evolution of Hunger Caucus

  2019  State Legislature 

 


The concept of the Hunger Caucus has been around a few years. The House approved memorials in 2019 and 2020 supporting the creation of this special body within the State Legislature. "I think New Mexico for far too long has had hunger as part of our our social economic cultural fabric," said Rep. Phelps Anderson, speaking in favor of House Memorial 65 in the 2019 State Legislature. "I salute you for bringing this memorial to the front because we're all here to do good work. The work we do could not be better in this area, or more important.

An earlier effort in 2018, led by former Rep. Sarah Maestas-Barnes, created a hunger council--a partnership between non-governmental organizations and state legislators.

The current Hunger Caucus is the result of several informal meetings in recent years between legislators and representatives of the Interfaith Hunger Coalition, Roadrunner Food Bank, AARP New Mexico and other organizations and Rep. Ferrary. Among the legislators who contributed to the discussion over the years are Rep.  Ferrary, Rep. Anderson, Rep. Anthony Allison, Rep. Natalie Figueroa, Rep. Karen Bash, Rep. Kristina Ortez, Rep. Rebecca Dow, Sen. Bill Tallman, Sen. Harold Pope, Sen. Carrie Hamblen, Sen. Liz Stefanics, among others.

Major Anti-Hunger Initiative in 2022

Because of their commitment to the Hunger Caucus, many legislators were aware of this year's broad Food, Farms and Hunger initiative, which promoted a long-term and wide approach to addressing hunger in New Mexico. Because of an effort by a broad coalition of non-profits, anti-hunger advocates, feeding agriculture organizations, and the governor's office, about $24 million was allocated in the FY23 budget for programs to address hunger in New Mexico this year. 

The same advocates promoted a similar measure in the 2021 legislature via an omnibus bill. That measure did not contain funding allocations and did not reach the House floor. This year, the strategy was to include funding in the Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's budget proposal for HB2, the general budget.  

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Coalition, Governor's Office Craft Hunger Initiative for 2022 Legislature

Dear Representatives and Senators,

These are unprecedented times. Even as the pandemic has made the weaknesses and inequities in our food system more evident, it highlighted the strength of New Mexico’s food system. The pandemic also revealed the potential to expand food and farming businesses and the agricultural economy while creating greater access to food for those who are vulnerable.

Our local food system is supported by a long tradition of small and mid-sized farms and ranches that are part of the state’s agricultural industry that generates billions of dollars in revenue every year, yet 95% of products leave the state. At the same time, hunger and food insecurity have remained persistent challenges in New Mexico for generations. 

To address this potential, over 250 New Mexicans came together to work on a large, comprehensive plan to strengthen the connections between food, hunger, and farming in New Mexico. The Food, Farm, and Hunger Initiative supports our commitment to fostering a food system that addresses hunger while improving economic resiliency in New Mexico’s communities. 

The FY23 Executive Budget recommendation includes more than $24 million – the largest investment increase in food and agriculture in the state’s history. It’s more urgent than ever for the legislature to fund these essential programs. 

We ask that you prioritize the complete Executive Budget recommendation in House Bill 2 as requested for the Food, Farm, and Hunger Initiative. $14.2 million is included in the Department of Finance and Administration’s budget, with another $200,000 recommended for essential staff positions for the Aging and Long-Term Services Department and Human Services Department. $10 million is recommended in capital outlay for hunger relief infrastructure improvements.

This effort will benefit hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans through an intergenerational approach that will yield significant economic, health, and environmental benefits. This targeted investment will help expand federal nutrition programs and homegrown programs that work.

The many organizations, individuals, and partner agencies that worked together to create this comprehensive budget package multi-year set of initiatives ask for your full support in making sure this funding request is reflected in the legislative budget.

Please feel free to contact any of us. Several organization’s contacts are provided below.

Yours truly, signed:
New Mexico Food & Agriculture Policy Council, Pam Roy, Coordinator, 505-660-8403
NM Farmers’ Marketing Association, Denise Miller, Executive Director, 505-699-2064
NM School Nutrition Association, Marie Johnson, President, 505-599-8778
New Mexico Association of Food Banks, Sherry Hooper, President, 505-577-0444
   ECHO Food Bank
   Food Bank of Eastern New Mexico
   Roadrunner Food Bank – Albuquerque
   Roadrunner Food Bank – Las Cruces
  The Food Depot
Agri-Cultura Network
Agri-Nature Center
Alliance for Local Economic Prosperity
Black Farmers and Ranchers New Mexico
CPLC New Mexico, Inc. & HELP New Mexico, Inc.
Farm to Table
Interfaith Hunger Coalition
La Semilla Food Center
Lutheran Advocacy Ministry - NM
National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association
National Young Farmers Coalition
New Mexico Appleseed
New Mexico Conference of Churches
New Mexico First
NM Healthy Soil Working Group
Rural Coalition
The Community Pantry and Hope Garden
Wagner Farms
Western Landowners Alliance

The Food, Farm, and Hunger Initiative (Governor's Budget Proposal)

BACKGROUND

New Mexico has a vibrant local food movement supported by a long tradition of small- and mid-sized agriculture. Our thriving agricultural industry generates billions of dollars in revenue every year, but 95% of products leave the state. At the same time, hunger and food insecurity have remained persistent challenges in New Mexico for generations. It’s time to change the system – and we’ve got a plan.  

The FY23 Executive Budget recommendation includes more than $24 million – the largest investment increase in food and agriculture in the state’s history – to revolutionize New Mexico’s food system. This targeted investment will help expand federal nutrition programs and homegrown programs that work. This effort will benefit hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans through an intergenerational approach that will yield significant economic, health, and environmental benefits. 

The Food, Farm, and Hunger Initiative supports our commitment to fostering a food system that addresses hunger while improving economic resiliency in New Mexico communities. The future of New Mexico’s food system will be improved by these comprehensive investments outlined in the FY23 Executive Budget recommendation.

EXCUTIVE BUDGET PRIORITIES 

Increase immediate hunger relief efforts for food insecure 

  • New Mexicans Senior Food Boxes Program, which provides an additional 3,025 homebound seniors and adults with disabilities in rural communities with seven meals each month. Recommended funding: $692,000 for the Aging and Long-Term Services Department. Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program, which provides an additional 1,960 individuals in rural communities with weekly vouchers to buy fruits and vegetables from New Mexico producers. Recommended funding: $500,000 for the Department of Health. 
  • Summer and Afterschool Nutrition Support, which provides start-up and expansion grants to help address child food insecurity during the summer months and at other times when school meals are not available. A minimum of 75 grants will impact 9,975 children. Recommended funding: $1.5 million for the Early Childhood Education and Care Department. 
  • College Food Security Initiative, which provides grab and go healthy meals, low cost or free access to campus dining plans, campus food pantries, and/or innovations to food distribution systems to support up to 17,500 food insecure students. Recommended funding: $1 million for the Higher Education Department. 
  • Meal Gap Funding, which funds food bank assistance to an additional 127,000 New Mexicans across the state, including children and seniors experiencing food insecurity in high need counties. Recommended funding: $5.9 million for the Human Services Department. Increase immediate hunger relief efforts for food insecure New Mexicans 
  • Mobile Technology for WIC and Seniors Farmers' Market Nutrition Programs, which funds the purchase of mobile technology for paperless transactions at farmers’ markets, farm stands, and grocery stores. 25,000 New Mexicans currently benefit from this program. Recommended funding: $108,400 for the Department of Health. 
  • Double Up Food Bucks, which provides dollar-for-dollar incentives for more than 46,000 SNAP participants to purchase New Mexico-grown fruits and vegetables at grocery stores, farmers’ markets, farm stands, and mobile markets. Recommended funding: $700,000 for the New Mexico Department of Agriculture.


Invest in local producers’ ability to support New Mexico’s food system 

  • New Mexico Grown, which allows an additional 68,850 New Mexicans to eat locally produced fruits and vegetables, meat, nuts, and other foods in schools, senior centers, and preschools. Recommended funding: $400,000 for the Aging and Long-Term Services Department, $300,000 for the Early Childhood Education and Care Department, and $800,000 for the Public Education Department.
  • Healthy Soils Program, which promotes and supports an additional 64 land management projects that improve the health, yield, and profitability of the soils of the state. Recommended funding: $1 million for the New Mexico Department of Agriculture.
  • Agricultural Workforce Development, which provides internship opportunities for young and beginning farmers, ranchers, food processors, and other agribusiness professionals. Up to 34 interns will be supported in partnership with community-based organizations. Recommended funding: $250,000 for the New Mexico Department of Agriculture.
  • Approved Supplier Program, which supports an additional 219 farmers and ranchers selling to schools, senior centers, preschools, grocery stores, and distributors. Retail sales by participating producers increased ten-fold in a 2-year period because of this program. Recommended funding: $200,000 for the New Mexico Department of Agriculture.
  • Farm to Food Bank Program, which connects communities in need with locally produced fruits and vegetables, meat, nuts, and other foods that would otherwise be wasted. Producers will be reimbursed for the costs involved with harvesting, processing, packaging, and transporting donated foods. Recommended funding: one-time appropriation of $500,000 for the New Mexico Department of Agriculture.

Build the capacity of New Mexico’s supply chain  

  • Healthy Food Financing Initiative, which will fund low interest loans and grants to invest in local farmers, food hubs, and grocery stores. Up to $2 million annually will be matched from the U.S. Treasury. Program expansion will support 7 projects and more than 100 jobs. Recommended funding: $250,000 for the Economic Development Department.
  • Food, Farm, and Hunger Capital Outlay Request, which invests in infrastructure improvements for New Mexico’s food system. Funding priorities include cold storage, transportation, kitchen equipment for preparing and serving meals, and facility renovations. Recommended funding: $10 million for the Aging and Long-Term Services Department

Monday, October 25, 2021

Rep. Melanie Stansbury Joins House Hunger Caucus

Rep. Melanie Stansbury formally became a member of the  US House Hunger Caucus in September of this year. She is the third consecutive congressperson from the New Mexico First Congressional district to join this House body. Her two predecessors, former Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (now governor of New Mexico) and former Rep. Deb Haaland (now federal Interior Secretary) were also members of the House Hunger Caucus, as was former Rep. Ben Ray Lujan of the Third Congressional District. Interestingly enough, Sen. Lujan is still listed as a member of the House Hunger Caucus, even though he is in the Senate (More on that later). Perhaps Rep. Teresa Leger-Fernandez could follow in Rep. Lujan's footsteps. If you're a constituent of Rep. Leger Fernandez, send her a note urging her to join the House Hunger Caucus.

Rep. Stansbury is a natural for the House Hunger Caucus. Before her election to the US House, she worked tirelessly as a state representative to coordinate a new approach in New Mexico to address hunger in our state. She promoted an omnibus bill that would bring together all the elements needed to address hunger in New Mexico. This created the blueprint for anti-hunger efforts going forward. 

And one of her first actions after her swearing-in ceremony to the US House was to speak out in favor of making the Child Tax Credit permanent.

What is the Hunger Caucus? 

A caucus by definition is comprised of a group of members of Congress that meets to pursue common legislative objectives. According to the Congressional Research Service, caucuses are formed as congressional member organizations (CMOs) both in the House and the Senate. The legislative bodies are governed under the rules of the two chambers. 

Unlike formal committees, caucuses do not have authority to craft legislation. They primarily intend to provide a forum for members to demonstrate their willingness to work together on a particular issue such as addressing hunger in the United States. While highly symbolic, they also contribute to the national conversation. For example, in December of 2020, House Hunger Caucus co-chair Rep. Jim McGovern, a Democrat from Massachusetts, urged then President-elect Joe Biden to to appoint a “hunger czar” to develop, coordinate, and implement a national strategy to reduce food insecurity in America. 

"I have long maintained that hunger is a political condition, and the choices our leaders make have a profound and direct impact on whether or not Americans families will live in fear of not knowing where their next meal will come from. Ending hunger is not only a moral obligation; there is also a tremendous cost to our country for our indifference," McGovern said in a letter to Biden.

Caucus Co-Chair Jackie Walorski, R-Ind., has also spoken in favor of policies to address hunger in our country. “Access to plentiful, nutritious food plays a key role in health and wellness and can help families and communities build stronger futures," Walorski said during a commemoration of World Food Day in 2020. “I’m honored to support the designation of a World Food Day and renew my commitment to addressing hunger, food insecurity, and malnutrition in the U.S. and across the globe. As co-chair of the bipartisan House Hunger Caucus, I’ll continue working to make nutrition a priority in Congress.”

Here are other quotes from legislators, including some members of the Hunger Caucus, on World Food Day 2020

To be sure, the House Hunger Caucus aims to be a bipartisan body.  Here is the current listing, courtesy of Rep. McGovern's office. The listing does not include party affiliation, but a few of these legislators are members of the Republican Party.

Kind, Ron

WI-03

Lawrence, Brenda L.

MI-14

Courtney, Joe

CT-02

Pallone, Frank

NJ-06

Matsui, Doris

CA-06

Lofgren, Zoe

CA-19

Costa, Jim

CA-16

Norton, Eleanor Holmes

DC

Carson, Andre

IN-07

DeLauro, Rosa

CT-03

Doyle, Mike

PA-14

Lee, Barbara

CA-13

Aguilar, Pete

CA-31

Smith, Adam

WA-09

Cleaver II, Emanuel

MO-05

Carbajal, Salud

CA-24

Deutch, Ted

FL-22

Kildee, Dan

MI-05

Huffman, Jared

CA-02

Adams, Alma

NC-12

Larsen, Rick

WA-02

Pingree, Chellie

ME-01

Maloney, Carolyn

NY-12

Lujan, Ben Ray

NM - SENATE

Connolly, Gerald

VA-11

Raskin, Jamie

MD-08

Ryan, Tim

OH-13

Jackson-Lee, Sheila

TX-18

Welch, Peter

VT At-Large

Green, AL

TX-09

Speier, Jackie

CA-14

Maloney, Patrick

NY-18

Larson, John

CT-01

Lynch, Stephen

MA-08

Bishop, Sanford

GA-02

Lowenthal, Alan

CA-47

Scott, Robert "Bobby"

VA-03

McCollum, Betty

MN-04

Neal, Richard

MA-01

Bonamici, Suzanne

OR-01

DeFazio, Peter

OR-04

Doggett, Lloyd

TX-35

McGovern, James P.

MA-02

Sablan, Gregorio Kilili Camacho

MP

Delbene, Suzanne

WA-01

Clark, Katherine

MA-05

Johnson, Eddie Bernice

TX-30

Kuster, Ann McLane

NH-02

Takano, Mark

CA-41

Frankel, Lois

FL-21

Schiff, Adam

CA-28

Kaptur, Marcy

OH-09

Price, David

NC-04

Schakowsky, Jan

IL-09

Spanberger, Abigail

VA-07

NODO

 

Panetta, Jimmy

CA-20

Lawson, Al

FL-05

Dingell, Debbie

MI-12

Kelly, Mike

PA-16

Moolenaar, John

MI-04

Walberg, Tim

MI-07

Griffith, Morgan

VA-09

Upton, Fred

MI-06

Thompson, Glenn "GT"

PA-15

Granger, Kay

TX-12

Walorski, Jackie

IN-02

Omar, Ilhan

MN-05

Mann, Tracey

KS-01

Stansbury, Melanie

NM-01


What About the Senate Hunger Caucus?

Unlike the House, Senate groups receive neither official recognition nor funding from the chamber. But a Senate Hunger Caucus does exist, and co-chairs include high-profile senators: John Boozman (R-AR), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Roger Marshall (R-KS). "Living in the breadbasket of our nation, it can be difficult to comprehend the prevalence of hunger around the world. Yet hunger is real, and it threatens the future of millions of people every day,"  Sen. Jerry Moran (previously a co-chair of the caucus) said in his website.  

In addition to the co-chairs, the Senate Hunger Caucus is comprised of nine other senators. See listing.

Among recent actions, the caucus led a food drive in Congress in 2019.  In November 2020, Sen. Moran and a handful of his colleagues introduced a resolution to honor the World Food Program for receiving a 2020 Nobel Peace Prize.

Sen.  Ben Ray Lujan does not participate in the Senate Hunger Caucus (at least not yet), but he remains as an honorary member of  the House Hunger Caucus. We'll contact the staffs of Sen. Lujan and Heinrich to get in their insights on the Senate Hunger Caucus.