New Interfaith Hunger Coalition

On Sunday, February 23, I had the opportunity to meet with the members of the newly formed Interfaith Hunger Coalition.  About 90 people gathered in the fellowship hall of First Presbyterian Church to talk about how communities of faith in Albuquerque and elsewhere in New Mexico can work together to address hunger in our communities. Some of those in the room were pastors and rabbis and others were representatives of agencies like Catholic Charities, 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 providing direct assistance to people in need. There were also a few children and families and retired individuals who also attended.

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(about 90 people of many faiths attended the first Interfaith Hunger Coalition meeting)

The goal of the Interfaith Hunger Coalition is to create a space for people of faith to offer ideas and proposals on how and where the faith community can focus their efforts to reduce the impact of hunger in New Mexico.  At this meeting, Ruth Hoffman (Lutheran Advocacy Ministry – New Mexico), Nancy Pope (Share our Strength), and I got to spend a few minutes sharing our perspective on the issue of hunger and areas where people and organizations can focus their efforts for maximum impact.  We also had the chance to hear from Tony Pelletier, a member of the Community of Hope, who told us about how he and his wife Julie had personally dealt hunger.

The attendees then broke into small discussion groups to select two areas where they would like to see attention focused.  Some of the critical focus areas that emerged were:

  •  Expanding food recovery/rescue efforts
  • Working on expanding access to SNAP (the program formerly known as Food Stamps)
  • Looking at consolidating resources to cut down on the time necessary for people to access assistance (a “one stop shop” for food assistance, utility help, clothing, nutritional education, etc.)
  • Increasing access to food during the critical summer months
  • Promoting community gardens

The group will also work together to continue work on advocacy and strategies to change the system that promotes hunger and poverty (e.g. wage issues).

It was wonderful to see so many people devoting a Sunday afternoon to this conversation and identifying ways they can work together.  I hope many other groups will come together to have this same conversation.

Since I took a great deal of this blog from Carlos Navarro’s Bread for the World blog, it seems appropriate to close with the poem he uses to close his email messages.  It’s a beautiful tribute to the sacred role that food should play in all our lives.

BREAD MEDITATION
Be gentle…when you touch bread.
Let it not lie…uncared for, unwanted.
So often…bread is taken for granted.
There is such beauty in bread;
beauty of sun and soil,
beauty of patient toil.
Wind and sun have caressed it.
Christ often blessed it.
Be gentle…when you touch bread.
(discovered next to a loaf of bread, tucked in an alcove at Cartmel Priory, England)

Kathy Komoll is the Executive Director of the New Mexico Association of Food Banks. Carlos Navarro is a volunteer of Bread of the World in New Mexico and an anti-hunger advocate.  Read his blog here.



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