Remembering National Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week – November 10 – 18, 2012


Remembering National Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week – November 10 – 18, 2012

The one time a year people think of the homeless and hungry is during Thanksgiving so advocates seek to draw attention by organizing National Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week. Taos is not immune. Since I volunteer to provide meals with my friends in Taos Food Not Bombs many local people confide in me about their struggles to survive. Many in our community would be surprised to know that their neighbors are facing foreclosure, going days with out a healthy meal. This can be very difficult for people that live in such a small community to acknowledge but many of the people you speak with every day are struggling to service yet are too proud to share their fears.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture often reports that New Mexico is the nations hungriest state yet we are also the birthplace of agriculture in North America when the pueblo communities first starting cultivating grains and vegetables thousands of years ago. Over 17 percent of New Mexicans do not have enough to eat every month. Food banks and pantries often run out. Many are too proud to show to food programs embarrassed that they are in need.

This highlights the fact that no one should have to go hungry in New Mexico when we spend so much of our tax dollars on preparation for war. While New Mexico is Americas hungriest state we are also home to Americas largest arsenal of nuclear weapons. When I first started to bring food to people living in public housing very few Americans were homeless. I helped start a group called Food Not Bombs with the goal of building public pressure against President Reagan’s plan to divert tax dollars from healthcare, education and other domestic programs towards the world’s most aggressive military build up. We organized a theatrical representation of a Depression era soup kitchen outside the stock holders meeting of the Bank of Boston to protest the economic policies of Reagan and his banker friends claiming that if they took America down this path people might soon find themselves standing in line to eat at soup kitchens just as we did during the Great Depression. Thirty years later our country finds itself with millions standing in line to receive food while millions are just a pay check away from joining them in the streets.

Hunger and homelessness is growing as the economic, political and ecological systems fail. Poverty, hunger, climate change, the misguided political and  economic policies our society has taken since electing Reagan have become the “perfect storm” of global calamity. Like many in Taos I struggled with our drought. Most of our acequias ran dry in May. Efforts to drill a well on my land were delayed as the drilling rig sank into the mud of an early thaw.

The flip side is too much water. I was speaking in Florida when the gail force winds of Sandy started to blow up the eastern coast. Watching the palm trees bend in the high winds was the first indication that we were in for trouble. I helped coordinate the relief effort after Katrina so I was already getting emails and calls about Sandy before her winds hit the United States.

Just like Katrina we posted a Sandy relief webpage and called on our volunteers to prepare to join the effort. As the sea flooded New Jersey and New York Food Not Bombs sprang into action. We set up kitchens, recovered food and supplies from damaged business and arrived on the front line of Hurricane Sandy providing thousands of meals and tons of uncooked food and supplies to as many survivors as possible from Staten Island, Brooklyn and across Long Island. Tens of thousands, maybe as many as half a million people have been made homeless by Sandy. Tens of thousands of homes were washed away with the floods. Every where I go people wander in shock. Vast areas stink of raw sewage. The desperation continues for tens of thousands of people and will continue as the new Sandy homeless join the ranks of the millions already made homeless by policies that failed to respect reality. Policies that promote climate destroying energy and transportation designed to profit the one percent while ignoring the impact it will have on our atmosphere and oceans. Policies designed to profit from war while leaving our communities adrift in poverty and hunger. The emergency demands bold change and it is clear from the debates during the election that we will not find any solutions through our elected officials or corporate leaders. Just like we are experiencing here in the mid Atlantic the people themselves are going to have to rise to the occasion and implement the bold changes we urgently need if we are to survive 30 years of reagan style economic, political and ecological policies.

Keith McHenry
P.O. Box 424
Arroyo Seco, NM 87514 USA