Governor’s new “breakfast” ad diverts attention from new cuts to food programs, misstates role helping kids

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Governor Susana Martinez launched a new TV ad today profiling the “Breakfast After the Bell” program and food stamp program changes she’s advanced.

The message is seen by some as Martinez’s attempt to play defense against negative press her administration received when her own secretary of human services, the state’s administrator of food and poverty support programs, said last year that New Mexico does not have a hunger problem.

Squier has spent the last several days retreating from an email she wrote that said hunger was not a problem in New Mexico.

“Since there has never been and is not now any significant evidence of hunger in N.M., I would offer that the focus of the report should be on getting proper nutrition to children (and adults),” Squier wrote.

Everyone, except Squire apparently, understands that New Mexico has a huge hunger and poverty problem.  A report last year found that 1-in-4 families with children in New Mexico couldn’t afford food.

But the Santa Fe New Mexican‘s Steve Terrell reports that Martinez may be overstating her role in the children’s program; and her mention of food stamp reforms fails to mention the millions of dollars, and hundreds of jobs, she cut from our economy when her administration unilaterally decided to cut thousands of New Mexicans off of food stamp support.

Martinez saying “I started” the Breakfast After the Bell program might rankle Democratic legislators who sponsored bills to establish the program, advocated by a nonprofit organization called Appleseed. But Martinez in 2011 did sign the bill that mandated the breakfast program for low-income elementary schools, and her administration implemented it. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Cynthia Nava, D-Las Cruces, passed the Senate unanimously and passed the House with just 10 Republicans voting no.

The Albuquerque Journal similarly reported on the non-profit origins of the program.  Clearly not something Martinez “started”:

New Mexico Appleseed, which helped spearhead the elementary breakfast program, believes it should be expanded to high-poverty middle and high schools.

The best way to justify that is by showing outcomes, and the hunger advocacy group has some preliminary information after surveying 143 schools that have participated in Breakfast After the Bell.

Anti-assistance efforts cost jobs and our economy
New Mexico Center on Law and PovertyMartinez opens her latest ad saying, “It’s harder for hungry kids to learn.”  That, she says, is the reason she wants to help more poor children eat before school.

But the Martinez administration acted unilaterally earlier this year to cut off tens-of-thousands of poor and hungry New Mexicans who can’t find work in a state still losing jobs and failing to attract new industry.

Changes would affect 20 percent of recipients, about 80,000 adults, [Human Service Dept. Spokesman Matt] Kennicott said Friday. –Santa Fe New Mexican, Aug. 30, 2014

A new report from NM Voices for Children and the NM Center for Law and Poverty found that removing assistance from those in need would also remove $47 million from New Mexico’s economy – all federal dollars provided at no cost to state.  Those food stamp dollars go directly to buy food in local grocery stores and from local farmers.

From NMCLP:

The NMCLP offers a couple of important reasons why the changes are not a good idea.

New Mexico Cannot Afford to Reject Millions of Dollars in Federal Food Assistance:SNAP benefits are 100% paid for by the federal government. Every $1.00 of food assistance given through SNAP goes direct into local food and grocery stores, creating $1.70 to $1.80 in economic activity. By ref using to waive the work requirements until employment improves , New Mexico could lose over $47 million funneled directly into our poorest counties , while incurring administrative costs

Food Banks Cannot Replace Such a Significant Loss of Food Assistance: Every week, nearly 40,000 New Mexicans seek food assistance. This is equivalent to a city the size of Farmington seeking food assistance. SNAP benefits last an average of 2.3 weeks. Demand for food assistance through food pantries and other charities is already at an all – time high and there are simply not enough resources to meet the needs of those thrown off of SNAP under the proposed rule.

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