Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Hunger Games

Move over, Hanna Skandera, it looks like Human Services Secretary Sidonie Squier has replaced you -- at least for now -- as the biggest lightning rod in Gov. Susana Martinez's administration. That's been cemented by Squier's recent email to other administration officials.

It was a response to a draft report by a state hunger task force in which Squier said:

“Since there has never been and is not now any significant evidence of hunger in New Mexico, I would offer that the focus of the report should be on getting proper nutrition for children (and adults).  The idea—which is the easy way out—that we should expand every government food program in existence is not productive, especially if the issue is nutrition and not hunger.  Please consider.”

The New Mexican's story about this is HERE.

Squier's statement, of course directly contradicted the Feeding America report just a few months ago that ranked New Mexico number one in the nation in terms of food insecurity for children.

Squier, once her email made the news, backtracked and said her statement had been "poorly worded" and of course there is hunger in New Mexico.

Gov. Susana Martinez also said Squier's email had been "poorly worded" and in an email listed some ways the administration has tried to fight hunger. Here's Martinez's complete statement:

The governor agrees that Secretary Squier’s e-mail was worded very poorly and inarticulately. Of course there are children who are hungry in New Mexico.  The Governor knows that, and Secretary Squier shares her opinion that there is no excuse for a child in New Mexico to ever be hungry.  

And while we have many struggles, there are many things the governor and her Administration are doing to help close the hunger gap in New Mexico.  

In her first few months in office, she signed into law the Breakfast After the Bell Program, which mandates that schools with 85% or more students who qualify for free and reduced meals must serve breakfast to all students after the bell rings, because we have recognized that students need a meal in the morning to be ready to learn all day.   (As a result, in 2012 the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) named New Mexico first in the nation for serving breakfast to low-income children; and we were the first state to reach FRAC’s goal to serve at least 70 out of every 100 low-income students breakfast.)  

The Governor organized a Hunger Task Force, which has been meeting over the last year to come up with recommendations on how we can address gaps in our food services, become more efficient in our programs, and market the programs to people who currently are not receiving them.   

This year, we increased the number of summer meal sponsors by 19%, and added 13 new summer meal sites where children throughout the state can eat healthy meals throughout the Summer. (In 2012, New Mexico was ranked 2nd in the nation for Summer Food programs by FRAC.)  

We have the school lunch program, the after school meal and snack programs, and we provide healthy meals to more than 22,000 low-income kids in the childcare assistance program.

Senate Majority Leader issued a statement of his own calling for Squier to resign.

And last night Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuqueruqe, who is running for governor, released her own statement in which she concluded:

Putting our heads in the sand – as the Governor seems to do when addressing issues such as child hunger – is ludicrous.  Perhaps next time she does a photo-op with young children, she can ask them what they ate for breakfast that morning.  She might be surprised by the answers.