Web site can help the state’s hungry

By Ned Cantwell

It’s outrageous, is what it is.

While the rest of us super-size our double cheeseburger at McDonald’s, slop more sour cream onto the giant baked potato at Cattle Baron, squeeze one more enchilada onto the plate at La Fonda, our New Mexico neighbors are going hungry.

I don’t mean hungry in the sense that “Gee, it’s still two hours to lunch and I need a snack.” No, hungry like in, “My kid is crying because I have no food for her.” Each week, 54,000 New Mexicans seek food donations to feed their families.

Those pesky lists. New Mexico never fares well on them. On this one, those with the largest number of people who are “food insecure,” i.e., damn near starving, New Mexico is third worst in the nation.

I know this fellow who wants to do something about it. His name is John Buckner, actually Dr. John Buckner. John inherited scads of cash from the newspaper company that once employed me, and he could be excused for lounging around a houseboat being served adult beverages. But he and his wife, Elizabeth, aren’t like that.

Instead, they live by the code, “To whom much is given, much is expected in return.” John, having done extensive research into the plight of the poor and homeless as part of his work as a research psychologist, set out to do something about their needs.

What John did was plunk about $400,000 of his own cash, and most of his free time, into a Web site:www.MassResources.org.

It is designed to help poor people access the federal food stamp program, as well as other programs that will help them. Note this: Only about half of the food stamps already approved get to the poor people who need them.

Here’s the deal. The Web site is designed for Massachusetts, where the Buckners live, but they have agreed to let New Mexico “clone” the site, waiving the license fee. We need only to come up with $50,000 to pay New Mexico technicians to make the conversion, and we need to spend about $25,000 a year to keep it maintained properly.

Bottom line: For $50,000, New Mexico gets a Web site easily worth $500,000 and, more importantly, takes a step forward on the path to feeding her hungry people.

House Speaker Ben Lujan, who has been a champion of the crusade to close the hunger gap, immediately recognized the value of the Buckner site and introduced a bill to fund it. That having bogged down in legislative committee, the Lujan office continues to support the effort.
As luck would have it, Voices for Children, based in Albuquerque, had been looking for just such a vehicle as the Massachusetts Web site, and Kay Monaco, its executive director, has agreed for Voices to become the New Mexico host organization. But she needs money to get it in operation.

Kay, with whatever assistance this columnist can provide, will be visiting New Mexico public and private foundations to raise the necessary funds.

Scorecard on the Web site promotion thus far? An Albuquerque Journal story detailing the facts of the Web site campaign, continuing support of those in both the legislative and executive branches of state government, an aggressive campaign by Voices for Children to make it happen.
And it needs to happen.

Ned Cantwell is the voluntary coordinator of the effort to bring the Massachusetts Web site to New Mexico. Contact him at:
ncantwell@charter.net