Bank on It: A Food Bank Blog
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
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.”
Margarette Purvis is the President and CEO of Food Bank For New York City. Follow her on Twitter at @FoodBank_Prez
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!
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 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.
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.
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!
by Triada Stampas
Three weeks ago, the Food Bank reached out to supporters like you to help save a critical source of support provided by the Child Tax Credit (CTC) to our most vulnerable working families.
In a cynical move to offset the cost of the payroll tax and unemployment insurance extension, the House proposed cutting CTC refunds that benefit low-income, working families who file their taxes with Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) rather than Social Security numbers.
Thanks to the actions of advocates like you, Congress protected this critical benefit which, simply put, helps keep food on the table for working families.
Though, in the end, Congress agreed not to require spending cuts to offset the extensions, Congress responded to the need for funding by initiating the auction of public airwaves for wireless Internet systems.
By removing a proposed cut that would have hurt our country’s most vulnerable, working families and identifying a revenue generating initiative that will speed digital communications, Congress has provided a perfect example of a fact that often goes unstated in Washington – we can reduce spending without hurting low-income Americans.
The Food Bank would like to thank our advocates for helping to save the Child Tax Credit! Please take a moment to visit our advocacy page for other actions you can take in support of New Yorkers in need.
Triada Stampas works to inform government officials, policy makers and the general public about the needs of the city’s network of emergency food organizations and the more than 1.3 million people who rely on them; and to advance public policy that meets those needs.
By Rachael Cusick, Serena Rivera, Celin Conception and Nafisatou Cisse
Do you ever wonder what people really know or think about nutrition? So do we! As part of the Food Bank’s EATWISE internship , we kicked off this school year by designing a survey to find out exactly what our peers know, or want to know, about nutrition. After reviewing student feedback from the 9 EATWISE high schools our team members attend , we noticed that a high number of teens don’t know enough about what types of food to eat in the morning. Based on that information, it was clear to everyone in EATWISE that our Spring 2012 school outreach project should be to raise awareness about the benefits of eating a healthful breakfast, with a focus on the importance of portion sizes.
To conquer our goal, we divided into four groups: Social Media, Presentation, Marketing and – our group – Deliverables. Our group’s role is to put together nutrition materials that students at our high schools can take home with them. So far, we have developed a Breakfast in Your Pocket recipe book and a guide to fruit food map to provide our peers with an easy way to access healthful, quick, and super tasty recipes. Just a few of the exciting things the other groups are working on are writing and delivering morning announcements in our schools, building social networking pages and designing fun, interactive classroom activities like MyPlate relay races.. By the end of March, we will have put the final touches on our project and will get the chance to present it in our schools throughout New York City.
We're really excited to show off all of our hard work and promote our healthful breakfast campaign to other teens – and even teachers. To keep up with our progress, watch out for the blog entries we will be posting every other week!
Although this is only Daisy Carusillo’s second year implementing the Food Bank’s CookShop Classroom curriculum at PS 24 in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, she handles the job like an old pro.
I recently had the pleasure of seeing Daisy in action as she instructed a roomful of new CookShop teachers at a training session one evening this fall. After a full day in their own classrooms, the teachers had arrived looking a little weary. But as Daisy led a mock Chef Lesson (a cooking activity in which students help prepare nutritious, kid-friendly recipes) it was clear that these lessons are her favorite part of the CookShop Classroom curriculum – and it was impossible for the tired teachers to resist Daisy’s infectious energy and humorous anecdotes. Plus, it didn’t hurt that the tangy batch of Peachy Orange Salsa they were preparing smelled so great.
“This is where nutrition education takes on a whole new life,” Daisy said. “The actual handling of the produce, the chopping, the dicing, mixing, the smells…does so much for the building of community.”
CookShop Chef Lessons give elementary-school children an opportunity to try healthy fruits and vegetables in a learning environment, Daisy said, while the Explorer and Discovery Lessons reinforce other academic areas such as reading, math and science skills.
“One of my favorite [Chef Lesson] memories is when a student was so proud of her dish – it looked so colorful, and it was so flavorful – she wanted to take some to the principal so she could taste it,” Daisy said.
But like all learning experiences, some can be a little jarring at first. When Daisy’s students were told carrots comprised the root of a plant, “they were so shocked, they weren’t sure if they wanted to continue eating [the Carrot Raisin Salad].”
Daisy said the students were more willing to taste the Three-Bean Salad and Apple Dipper recipes, but, she said, all CookShop lessons help serve a child’s personal development.
“Children who develop adequate cooking skills and nutritional knowledge are more likely to make healthier food choices later in life,” Daisy said.
And it’s that kind of insight – rather than the number of years’ experience -- that makes Daisy Carusillo an expert CookShop teacher.
By Leah Kohlenberg
Last week, the Food Bank kicked off the 18th year of our signature nutrition education program with a day-long conference, training teachers and educators to bring our CookShop program to students and parents in public schools throughout New York City.
A testament to the Food Bank’s continued commitment to nutrition education, CookShop will now be bringing the knowledge and tools to adopt a healthy diet on a limited budget to more than 135,000 low-income children, teens and adults through interactive workshops and peer-led social marketing.
This year, the Food Bank was proud to introduce important updates to CookShop. The CookShop Classroom for Elementary School curriculum, for example, now links nutrition education lessons directly to core subjects like math, language arts and science, and, importantly, to the school meals children have access to every day. CookShop for Families not only engages parents and guardians in workshops that complement the Classroom curriculum, it now also incorporates important skills like budgeting and meal planning.
This year’s keynote speakers – USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon and United Federation of Teachers (UFT) President Mike Mulgrew – joined Food Bank President and CEO Margarette Purvis at the conference, showing their support and appreciation for the teachers, parent coordinators and school staff who make CookShop a reality.
“We live in challenging times, and teachers can play such a vital role, not only in ensuring that children won’t go hungry, but that they also eat healthy foods,” said Under Secretary Concannon.
Remembering the recipe prepared during his visit to a CookShop for Families workshop in the Bronx, Michael Mulgrew told us, “I don’t know what it’s called, but I still make it.” The UFT President further praised the hands-on CookShop curriculum for making learning accessible to all students, including those in special education.
Perhaps best of all, the conference gives us a great opportunity to hear from the CookShop teachers and educators directly about what they most value in the program.
”This is an excellent idea - to link [the lessons] to math, science and language arts,” said six-year CookShop veteran Millie Peguero, referring to recent updates to the curricula she will be implementing in her Manhattan kindergarten class. “We’ve already noticed that the apple lesson, for example, coincided with a science lesson on fruits of the season, so we use that as the science lesson that day.”