In honor of Feed NM Kids Day on November 14, local leaders conducted a press conference at the APS Food and Nutrition Building to bring awareness of childhood hunger in New Mexico. It was a unique opportunity to witness a move of unity in our city through a diverse group of leaders, including local pastors, government officials and many others.
The common theme throughout the conference was marked by a spirit of unity and urgency with the overwhelming sense of working together for the common goal of ending childhood hunger in our state. The thing that makes this group of leaders so unique, is that they realize this isn’t a partisan issue, but a human issue—a human issue we can only conquer by working together.
The conference opened with Brian Alarid, president of America Prays and New Mexico Prays. As Alarid gave his speech, he highlighted the unfortunate statistics of our city that must be changed. You may remember some of these statistics from our recent appeal to contribute to Feed NM Kids, but they’re worth repeating to emphasize the grim reality of so many children in our state.
- New Mexico is #1 for childhood hunger
- Over 25% of our children live in a food insecure home, meaning, they don’t know where their next meal will come from
- Approximately, 3700 homeless children attend APS
- 2000 homeless and needy children and their families received thanksgiving dinner in partnership with APS and APD
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Issues like child hunger, poverty and homelessness are too big for the government to solve alone, but when the faith community, the business sector and the government work together for the common good we can make a lasting difference. —Brian Alarid
Once Mayor Tim Keller took the stage, he went on to paint a vivid picture in our minds as he described the ugly truth of what it means to be a homeless child in Albuquerque. In his speech, he explained that homeless children sleep somewhere different each night, whether with relatives, strangers, in shelters, cars or motel rooms. This means that these children have no permanent address in their APS records.
After Mayor Keller thanked everyone for coming together to end childhood hunger, Lieutenant Governor John Sanchez shared some grim details of his own childhood as he and his family struggled through poverty and very often depended on the kindness of strangers to get by. Sanchez also described how most often the only time he could get a decent meal was at school.
Through the horrors of his own experience, Sanchez reminds us that the problem doesn’t go away after the holidays, something Holly Slade is learning first hand as she leads the effort to end childhood hunger with Feed NM Kids. Slade explained that just a short 19 months ago the Feed NM Kids team started with six volunteers collecting nonperishable food at their church. Since then, they have distributed over 34 tons of food to hungry and homeless children of New Mexico. But as Slade aptly reminds us, hunger effects so much more than homework.
- Hungry children have poorer health and reduced immunity
- Hungry children are 4 times more likely to need counseling
- Hungry children are 3 times more likely to get suspended from school
- Hungry teens are 5 times more likely to commit suicide
The conference ended with a statement by Dr. Madelyn Serna Marmol, Assistant Superintendent of Equity, Instruction and Support at APS. From the words of her son some 15 years ago, she reminded us that Thanksgiving is a time for all Americans to come together to celebrate the true meaning of thanksgiving: sharing, caring and giving. As you celebrate this holiday season, remember to extend a hand of gratitude with sharing, caring and giving to the vulnerable and less fortunate in our midst.
New Mexico, when it comes to our children we can do better, we must do better, and we will do better. —Brian Alarid
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