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BANK ON IT: Food Bank For New York City's Blog


Filling the Summer Meal Gap

By Jeff Kolsch

There is a great deal of food insecurity in our Queens community, especially among families with children. When summer comes, it gets worse. Many of our residents rely on schools to feed their kids breakfast and lunch, and once the school year ends they have to figure out how to make up the difference. If more people knew about the Summer Meals program it would help them tremendously.

Pantries like ours are the boots on the ground. In many ways we're the community centers of the neighborhood where people gather. So we have to take advantage of that reach and do everything we can to spread the word about Summer Meals.

Here at New Life we're getting the word out in several ways. We put multi-language flyers about Summer Meals into our pantry bags. We talk it up with our guests and ask them to tell their friends and family. We put information in the church bulletin. We even place it on our outdoor electronic sign on Queens Boulevard that advertises the program.

This is our seventh year taking part in Summer Meals and the people in our community really appreciate it. Parents know that their children will get a nutritious and balanced meal here every weekday, with plenty of lean protein, fresh vegetables and fruit. When you're struggling financially, lunch for your kids may be a bag of chips and a soda if that's all you can afford. I'm glad that we can give families in our community a healthy and free alternative.

Jeff Kolsch is the director of New Life Food, Clothing and Homeless Pantry in Queens, a member of Food Bank's network of charities. New Life's Summer Meals program runs through August (Mon-Fri, 11:30-1:30).

Campus Pantry Lessons

By Jason Adams

I recently had the opportunity to spend a day at PS21R in Staten Island, volunteering at one of Food Bank's campus pantry distributions. It was the perfect time to be at a school. With a year's worth of lessons almost behind them, students were thinking about how much they knew. The same could be said for me during my day of volunteering. As I passed out fresh pears and apples to the families who'd come to get food to take home, I realized that I was also measuring myself--figuring out what I knew about the scope of Food Bank's work.



Having been at Food Book for three years, I've gained a solid understanding of the great work our Nutrition & Health Education team does throughout the five boroughs. Although I work in Fundraising, my job requires me to stay up-to-date on the entire organization. That's why I thought I knew what to expect when I volunteered at one of our campus pantries.



However, I quickly learned that there is no substitute for firsthand experience. Everything I'd read and heard about our Campus Pantry program up to that point was great--but it wasn't mine. That is to say, it's wasn't personal knowledge. Actually participating in the program allowed me to establish my own connections and takeaways.



What grabbed me most was the excitement and eagerness of the schoolchildren "shopping" for food with their families:



"Mmmm, black beans!" 


"Tomatoes!"



"I love cucumbers!"



One girl in particular had a smile on her face the entire time. Picking from canned corn, carrots and tomato sauce, she convinced her mother that it was best to choose a variety rather than three of the same item. In fact, she already had her meal planned out for that night--pasta with a side of corn! She was trying her best to make the smartest, healthiest choices.



Getting the chance to witness and participate in this excitement added a personal layer to my understanding of our work. I discovered that the best way to learn more about what we do is to get out there and see it. Now, if I have to describe the Campus Pantry program to someone, I just have to think back to the enthusiasm of those children.



If you'd like to volunteer with Food Bank, sign up at http://volunteer.foodbanknyc.org.



Jason Adams is Food Bank For New York City's Individual Giving Assistant.

Change One Thing This Summer!

By Sarah Troncone

Marcus Garvey Park was abuzz with kids running through sprinklers, playing on the playground, and riding their bikes when I arrived on Monday afternoon. I was there to check out Food Bank For New York City's "Change One Thing" truck, which launched that day. Brightly colored with sparkling orange slices, it was hard to miss. The "Change One Thing" truck's fun vibe welcomed teens and kids in the neighborhood to stop by for free water, healthy snacks such as sunflower seeds and dried fruit, healthy recipe booklets, fun prizes and a chance to win items like tickets to a major league baseball game through a social media contest.

"Change One Thing" is a social marketing campaign that educates teens on how to eat healthier by changing just one thing at a time rather than overhauling their entire diet. It can start with one healthy choice per day. The program helps guide teens toward practical, nutritious choices they can make without breaking their budget or disrupting their social lives.

The "Change One Thing" truck will be in dozens of places that teens congregate during the summer, including recreation centers, pools and basketball courts throughout the five boroughs until the end of summer. For truck locations, follow @FoodBank4NYC on Twitter or search #ChangeOneThing. The multimedia initiative includes a city-wide advertising campaign, mobile, digital, and broadcast, as well as social media.

For more information, visit Food Bank's Change One Thing page or EatwiseTeens.org.

Sarah Troncone is the Marketing & Social Media Coordinator at Food Bank For New York City.

Spread the word! Free summer meals

By Jacqueline Wayans
Reposted from InsideSchools.org

As a former food stamp recipient and a mom who uses great savvy to feed my three kids, I was encouraged and empowered at this week's Hunger Crisis Forum to hear Margarette Purvis, president and CEO of Food Bank For New York City say: "No one should feel shame just because they don't have enough money [to adequately feed their family]." The Hunger Crisis Forum took place the same week that the annual Free Summer Meals Program [PDF] kicks off.

An all-female panel of CEO's discussed rising food prices and the increasing number of parents struggling to feed their families. In fact, they said, many educated and middle class families find themselves using the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for the first time.

At least 80% of students in NYC public school qualify for free lunch. In response to the growing need, the United States Department of Agriculture is spending $400 million on the Summer Meals Program which starts in New York City on June 27. Yet only 16 percent of eligible children are expected to participate. Why? According to speakers at the forum, that "stigma" and "embarrassment" often keep people from taking advantage of the services.

The Food Bank for New York City and the National Dairy Council, which are helping to administer the summer meals program, are launching campaigns to raise awareness about the program using volunteers, flyers and even New York Yankees baseball players to get the word out.

Jaime Koppel of the Children's Defense Fund shared her personal experience as a child receiving supplemental food assistance and noted that children who are hungry may not perform as well at school. "Food insecurity in the early years has been linked to students' low test and class performance [as early as] the 3rd grade," she said. Beth Finkel, director of AARP NY noted that increasing numbers of grandparents are raising grandchildren with their limited social security income and need extra food support.

When my children were younger, I remember breathing easier during the school year because they received breakfast and lunch at school. However when summer rolled around, I had to figure out how to adjust my menu and stretch the dollars to provide all their meals. Though I tried my best, not all of those meals were the most nutritious. Jennifer Jones Austin, CEO of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies put it best at the forum when she said, "Resources affect choices, often times when you see that child with a bag of chips in the morning, that was the best that mother could do."

The Summer Meals Program provides a way for families to get healthy meals. It starts on June 27 - the day after school is out - and goes through Aug. 30. Any children 18 years old or younger may get a free breakfast and lunch at participating schools, pools and parks. No ID is required. Breakfast and lunch are also available to all children attending summer school. For more details, and a list of sites see the DOE's website. This year there will also be three mobile food trucks visiting parks and beaches at lunchtime.

For those who don't need the services, spread the word to those who need a helping hand. You can also support the Food Bank with a donation. If you donate by July 12, Delta Air Lines will match your gift, up to a total of $50,000.

Jacqueline Wayans is a co-author of the New York City Best Public School Guides. The mom of three public school children, she graduated from Columbia University in 2008.

Fiscal Cliff Deal a Mixed Bag: More for Low-Income Families, Less for Nutrition Education

by Triada Stampas

The "Fiscal Cliff" deal struck by Congress at the start of 2013 made a number of changes to the tax code – many of them beneficial for residents with low household income, especially low-income families. With Food Bank research finding 70 percent of low-income families in New York City struggling to afford food, this comes as positive news for the New Year. Regrettably, alongside these gains, Congress enacted immediate and dramatic funding cuts to nutrition education programming for these same families, including our own CookShop and Just Say Yes to Fruits and Vegetables programs. Significantly, the American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA), as it was called, extended several important provisions that were set to expire, including expansions of the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, a higher credit rate for the Dependent Care Tax Credit, as well as the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which helps families pay for college. In addition, ATRA prevented an increase in taxes from kicking in for individuals earning less than $400,000 (and married couples filing jointly earning less than $450,000). Although some of these gains may be offset by the two-point increase in the payroll tax deduction, combined, these changes mean low-income tax filers will not see their tax rates increase or their available tax credits drop. In a surprise move, however, Congress decided to make an immediate 48 percent cut to this year's remaining funding for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education (SNAP-Ed) – a loss of more than $4.8 million for New York State's nutrition education programs that provide SNAP (food stamp)-eligible New Yorkers with the knowledge, resources and skills to make healthy food choices on a limited budget. While Food Bank will make every effort to minimize the impact of this loss on the more than 100,000 New Yorkers our nutrition education programs reach, a mid-year funding cut of this magnitude can't help but be felt. Worse yet, if Congress does not act, more cuts are on the horizon: WIC (the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children) is scheduled for an eight percent cut on March 1, and SNAP benefits (food stamps) are threatened in the ongoing Farm Bill negotiations. If these benefits are slashed, more New Yorkers struggling to keep food on the table will be forced to turn to our city's already overwhelmed food pantries and soup kitchens. Your advocacy can help. Please contact your Representatives today and tell them to restore SNAP-Ed funding in the next fiscal cliff deal, and protect WIC and SNAP from cuts!

Triada Stampas is Senior Director of Government Relations at Food Bank For New York City

New Outlook on an Old Relationship

By Margarette Purvis

 “Resting. We are Resting Now.
Eyes Closed. Feet Together.
Our Hands are STILL.
Resting. We are Resting Now.”


These were the words said everyday at naptime by one of my kindergarten teachers, Miss Williams. There I lay during that hour on my red and blue mat. It was my favorite time of the day. Not because I EVER went to sleep…I didn’t. It was my favorite because of Miss William’s little speech said to us over and over again. She would often walk over to me and rub my back as if to say, It’s time to rest, Maggie. But even that thrilled me too much to be able to sleep. You see, to me Miss Williams was the first brown fairy princess…way before Tiana in “The Princess and the Frog.” In my 6-year-old mind, Miss Williams was Cinderella and teaching in Jackson, Mississippi was merely her day job. She was as pretty as the women in my family, but still different. Her voice was light. She was incredibly sweet, almost like a little girl herself. Being from a family of alpha females, I’ll admit that I was mildly obsessed with this figure and style that I’d never known, yet deeply adored.
 
Since learning of the horrific events in Newtown, Connecticut I have thought of Miss Williams and my other kindergarten teacher, Miss Wall, constantly. They were the first two women that I recall spending great time with who didn’t share my last name. I remember the safety and comfort my classmates and I felt whenever we saw their faces. I also remember that on my first day Miss Wall complimented the braids my aunt had double twisted for me. I was so proud of those braids. All these years later, to still remember the moment a person noticed the detail that made up a 6-year-old’s world is proof positive of how special teachers are.
 
Our country is reeling at the great devastation that has rocked Newtown, Connecticut. Across the country people are grappling with the discovery of teachers being on the front lines and what that means. Should they be outfitted with guns? Bulletproof vests? Is the answer bulletproof backpacks? So many questions for a problem that baffles the core of all of us. I won't pretend to know the answer, but I know what the reality involves.
 
Teachers have always been on the front lines. They are the primary witnesses to crimes against children every day. They see the reality of poverty and hurt in the form of hunger, no coats during winter, and a lack of book bags, school supplies and so many other items that most of us take for granted. The teachers who unfortunately lost their lives in the tragic events in Newtown are heroes. They’re being called heroes because they ran toward harm, attempting to shield children from the wretched ugliness that entered their world. Where I will disagree with the majority is when their heroism began. I believe that well before last Friday they, like teachers doing a yeoman's job in Bedford Stuyvesant and the South Bronx, were already heroes. Teachers in the poorest communities of our city commit their lives to shielding and protecting children from the ugliness that too often makes up their worlds.  The strength of the Food Bank's CookShop program, which serves 40,000 children, relies completely on the resilience and commitment of teachers. It’s their creativity that enables them to find ways to incorporate nutrition education into their curricula, ensuring that our city's neediest children get more of what they need.  We certainly wouldn’t have our 11 campus pantries in schools today without the commitment and dedication of teachers and school administrators.
 
My heart and mind have been fixated on the sense of peace and safety that’s been robbed from children, parents and teachers in classrooms across our country. I wonder if teachers know how much they mean to all of us and how much we owe them for the work they’ve put towards our past and future.  If I could find Miss Williams or Miss Wall I would first thank them and then assure them with the following:
 

 

“Acting. We are ACTING now.
Eyes OPEN. Feet Positioned.
Our hands are READY.
ACTING. We are ACTING now.”

 

 

 From the Desk of Margarette Purvis

 

 

Margarette Purvis is the President and CEO of Food Bank For New York City. Follow her on Twitter at @FoodBank_Prez

 

 

 

 

 

A Successful Summer for the Change One Thing Food Truck!

By Justin Crum, Youth Development Manager

Perhaps you saw it on ABC 7 or News 12, or maybe you read about it in the Amsterdam News, AM New York or The New York Times. Word was out over the summer about the Food Bank’s Change One Thing food truck, which was on the streets of New York City for nearly 8 weeks during the summer.

The truck is part of our Change One Thing social marketing campaign, now in its third year. “Change One Thing” is a simple message for teens that emphasizes the ease of making healthy decisions. One small step each day is enough to make a difference. Each year, we’ve tried to cut through the barrage of unhealthy messages aimed at teens in New York, beginning with graffiti murals and radio-sponsored events. This summer, we decided to take another step, bringing an interactive message to teens where they hang out: pools, parks and summer events. The truck distributes small food items to taste, including low-calorie fruit pops, fresh fruit and water, as well as recipe books. It also houses a video game, designed specifically for this campaign. The game, a mix of nutrition-related trivia and quick food decisions, was a hit at all of our stops this summer, especially amongst those that won prizes for their skills!

I was always excited to visit the truck. We’re so used to seeing questionable representations of teens on the media, it’s nice to see real NYC teens gathered and engaged around something positive. The first day the truck was out in the city this year was in Brownsville, at the Betsy Head pool. As I showed up on the elevated 3 train, I was able to see a crowd gathering in front of the truck. Walking from the station to the park, I saw a steady stream of kids and teens walking away from the park with big smiles on their faces, and healthy snacks in hand. Our first day was an unmitigated success. Maybe you saw the truck at a community event, park or pool over the summer and were convinced to Change One Thing!

Increased Participation in Summer Meals Proves it Takes a Village

by Roxanne Henry

The Food Resource Action Center (FRAC) recently reported that in 2011 participation in the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP, also known as Summer Meals) was down, nationally, compared to previous years. Summer Meals provides universal breakfast and lunch to all children age 18 and under at schools and other sites in low-income neighborhoods during the summer. Although nationally there was a decrease in participation in the program, New York City saw a 3% increase. Part of this increase may be attributed to a city-wide collaboration where governmental agencies, community-based organizations and hunger advocates, including the Food Bank For New York City, implemented a more grassroots approach by canvassing low-income neighborhoods with localized Summer Meals outreach materials.

Summer Food Service Program
Summer Meals provides universal breakfast and lunch to all children age 18 and under at schools and other sites in low-income neighborhoods during the summer.
In addition to its annual outreach initiatives around Summer Meals (including recruiting member agencies to become distribution sites and on-the-ground outreach) last year, for the first time, the Food Bank For New York City distributed over 100,000 flyers to families with children throughout the city through our approximately 1,000 member agencies.

Although there was an increase in participation in the program, the numbers are still relatively low; participation increased to only 28% last year. This means that we have a long way to go. This year Food Bank is expanding its Summer Meals efforts and continues to work with the larger city-wide initiative to further increase participation in the program.

Teens Teaching Teens Part 4: A Successful Project Indeed!

By Russell Gee

As you know if you have been reading this blog over the spring, the Food Bank’s EATWISE nutrition education interns completed a project to raise awareness for healthy breakfasts at our high schools this year – with in-class presentations, marketing materials, social media efforts and more. We wanted this project to make a real difference on our peers’ health and diets, but how would we define success and know that we were actually influencing our peers?

To me, if my peers could demonstrate that they learned something and thought the information was useful, then this would be a successful spring project. I realized the spring project made a difference when I talked to my friend Ryan. He was excited to try and make one of the healthful breakfast recipes we presented. My other friend, Kaitlin, even told me that she was eating breakfast more often and was careful to make healthier breakfast choices. To see my friends actually learn something and make changes to how they eat because of what we presented was very rewarding.

The presentation itself was also an interesting experience for me. It was different than just presenting a paper . Our EATWISE breakfast project included full-fledged presentations - with scripts, a slideshow, games and information used to educate others about breakfast. The experience itself was like viewing a kaleidoscope, as I was able to experience what it is like to be a teacher and having to expect that anything could occur.

For me, one of the most memorable parts of the presentation was when we informed a class that skipping breakfast could actually cause you to gain weight rather than lose weight. (That’s because …) Seeing the surprise and intrigue on their faces was priceless. Overall, being able to reach more than 900 of our peers, through in-class presentations, school announcements, marketing materials and social media content – all of which we created ourselves - gives me and my fellow interns a great sense of accomplishment. Our project showed how one can change their perspective so slightly and get something worthwhile in exchange.

Teens Teaching Teens Part 2: Getting the Message Right

By Russell Gee, Kamilah Newton, Elif Ajredini and Aditi Rai

As our friends in the deliverables group wrote a couple weeks ago, the Food Bank’s EATWISE nutrition education interns are running on a project to educate our peers on the importance of eating a balanced breakfast. Changing just one thing in your diet can make a big difference and is super simple. We’ve done it and they can do it too – and when our project reminds our peers that eating breakfast can have a real impact on their energy, productivity and overall focus, we’ll be working hard to make sure they listen up!

As the marketing group, we want to capture our peers’ attention and connect breakfast to situations that teens actually experience, like studying for a test. We’ve produced our own flyers, with fun fonts and great images, and even a marketing script for our peers to use when conducting classroom announcements to promote our Twitter and Tumblr pages. At the very end of our presentations our peers will make a pledge to Change One Thing in their diet, and we will create a pledge wall with all of their responses. This will definitely be exciting and we can’t wait until we can share it with all of you!

We want our peers to have fun learning! If they ask a lot of questions, then we’ll know they’re engaged, fully captivated and want to learn more! We want to convince them to Change One Thing and let them know that it’s not hard to make minor changes to their eating habits. No change is too small!

Personally, I’ve learned a lot about teamwork, and the power of consideration. Our group has open discussions and we all share our opinions. We’re not always on the same page, but we make compromises and our work looks great because we’re working together. It feels good knowing that everyone has contributed to the project and we are producing something that makes us proud!

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