Thursday, May 6, 2010

Food For Thought Campaign Results

So our Lenten Hunger Justice Campaign was a huge success!

Over 70 people showed up at our campaign kick off in February and committed to participating in the campaign through volunteer work, fincial contributions, and donations of food for our food drive.

The youth participating by learning about how food pantries work by taking a tour of the food pantry at the Unitarian Universalist church of Medford and by volunteering at St Luke's food pantry and soup kitchen. A number of families went to OverLook Farm in Rutland MA and learned about food distribution in other countries.

Each Wednesday we had about 30-40 people attend the Hunger Justice series and learned a lot about food insecurity in MA and what charity and justice work looks like and about sustainable agriculture and nutrition.

On Sundays we heard testimonies from Sara Folta, Mark McCurdy, Matt Fenn, and some of the youth of our church.

We have had many volunteers help out at St Luke's and will help out with the Greater Boston Food Bank in August.

In July 2010 we are sending out 6 teens to NYC with the Youth Service Opportunity Project to help serve the hungry there. In March we hosted a Spaghetti Dinner and Auction and raised over $4,000 for the trip!!

We also raised over $750 for St Luke's Soup Kitchen and hope to raise more.

We participated in the Walk For Hunger and raised over $4,700!

And we held a food drive with the goal of raising 144 boxes of food and exceeded that amount and raised over 180 boxes!! The food was all distributed to St Francis, St Luke's, and the Unitarian Universalist church of Medford!

Congrats everyone! And thanks to everyone who helped out!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Hunger Justice Series Week 5: Sustainable Farming!

The last speakers for our series here at Grace were Lisa Troy from Gaining Ground and Julien Goulet from The Food Project.

Gaining Ground is a volunteer run community garden in Concord Massachusetts. All the food that is grown on the farm is given away to people who need it. Gaining Ground combines hunger relief and community volunteerism. They work hard to grow high quality produce and work hard to provide exceptional experiences to their volunteers.

The Food Project works with youth and adults in different cities around the Boston area to produce healthy food for the poor in their community. While Julien was here he gave us some interesting facts about farming and why sustainable farming is important:

The wind blows for anyone who likes to eat vegetables.
25% of the vegetables consumed by children and teenagers are French fries.

The wind blows for anyone who has eaten dinner last night.
1 out of 3 children will eat dinner at a fast food restaurant tonight.

The wind blows for anyone who thinks you can make a healthy meal with one dollar.
The U.S. government gives your school $2.47 to pay for the cost of lunch and $1.56 to pay for the cost of breakfast per student. Nearly 60% of this funding goes toward labor, leaving roughly one dollar to create a nutritious meal of protein, milk, fruit, vegetables and bread.

The wind blows for anyone who thinks you need a kitchen to prepare a healthy meal.
There are 122 schools in the Boston Public Schools. Only 42 of these schools have kitchens and 80 of these schools do not. Meals served in the schools without kitchens are prepared by a food manufacturer in Pennsylvania, and travel to Boston each day.

The wind blows for anyone who thinks that fruits and vegetables are part of a healthy diet.
Only two percent of the budget of the Boston Public Schools Food and Nutrition Services Department is spent on fresh fruits and vegetables.

The wind blows for anyone who likes eating fresh fruits or vegetables.
Of the 316 foods available to schools through the USDA commodity foods program, only 9 of them are fresh fruits or vegetables. Of the 9 available, 4 are potatoes.

The wind blows for anyone who knows how many nickels are in a dollar.
U.S. poultry farmers who produce the chickens used for chicken nuggets are paid only five cents for each bird. These farmers typically raise 240,000 birds a year, which means they make only $12,000 a year.

The wind blows for anyone who lives in a town that has a farm in it.
Between 1982 and 2002, Massachusetts lost 30% of its farmland, 149,000 acres, to development.

The wind blows for anyone who has ever been to the Big Apple.
New York is the second largest apple producer in the country, growing approximately 25 million bushels every year. Yet 97% of the apples sold in New York City are shipped in from other states and countries as far away as China and Chile.

The wind blows for anyone who has grown his or her own food.
Massachusetts grows only 15% of its own food, but it could grow at least 35%.

The wind blows for anyone who has ever had a “milk mustache”.
Dairy farmers milk their cows 365 days a year. They work and average of 90 hours per week, 14 hours a day for an average hourly rate of $3.65 an hour.

The wind blows for anyone who has ever lived in a city.
The Rodale Institute estimates that if transportation systems are disrupted, most U.S. cities on the east coast will have less than two days’ worth of food available for urban residents.

The wind blows for anyone whose parents are older than 30 years old.
Scientists predict that today’s youth will have a shorter life span than their parents because of type 2-diabetes.

The wind blows for anyone who has ever complained that the lettuce at the supermarket looks wilted or brown.

Supermarkets mark up the price of farm produce as much as 90 percent. When you buy a head of lettuce for $1.90, the farmer is paid only 19 cents. If you bought that same head of lettuce at a farmer’s market, the farmer would get $1.90 and the head of lettuce would be a lot fresher.

The wind blows for anyone who enjoys eating strawberries, pineapples and mangoes in the middle of winter.
Growing, processing and delivering the food consumed by an average American family requires 3,367 gallons of gas each year; that’s enough to fill up your car 224 times, or once every day and a half.

The wind blows for anyone who has ever grown his/ her own food.
The U.S. now has more prisoners than farmers.

The wind blows for anyone who thinks there is not enough food to feed everyone in the world.
The world harvest of wheat, corn, rice and other grains produces enough to meet the nutritional requirements of every person in the world. In spite of this, 841 million people suffer from hunger worldwide, including 30 million in the U.S.

The wind blows for anyone who hates to go to the doctor.
14 million children in the U.S. do not have enough food to maintain good health.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Hunger Justice Series week 4

For this week we were to hear from Esther Brown on Feast and Famine in the Bible, but unfortunately she was not able to with us due to sickness.

Instead we watched a documentary on farming called King Corn which one of our parishioners wrote about in his blog. Please read his entry to learn more!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Hunger Justice Series Week 3: Alternatives to Emergency Food Programs

Justine Kahn from Project Bread:

Although emergency food programs are an important tool to address the immediate needs of those facing hunger, they do not provide a sustainable long term solution to ending hunger in this country. Instead, the federal government has established a nutrition safety net through a variety of federal nutrition programs, including:

  • Summer Food Service Program
  • National School Lunch Program
  • National School Breakfast Program
  • SNAP (formerly the Food Stamp Program)
  • WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children)
  • Child and Adult Care Food Program

These programs ensure that families and children have access to food in a more seamless and less stigmatizing way than standing in line at a food pantry or soup kitchen. Not only do these programs help families stretch their budgets further, but the child nutrition programs ensure that children are prepared to learn.

The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP)

  • Families who rely on free or reduced price school meals for their children during the academic year often find it difficult to absorb the additional food costs when school closes for the summer. To address the need, the USDA established the Summer Food Service Program to provide free summer meals to kids 18 and under in low-income communities. There is no need to show identification or registration to receive a meal. Kids can just show up!

How can you help?

  • Distribute SFSP promotional materials to your friends, neighbors, colleagues, and community partners. These are available for free from the Child Nutrition Outreach Program at Project Bread.
  • After July 1st, visit Meals 4 Kids or call Project Bread’s FoodSource Hotline at 1-800-645-8333 for complete site information this summer.
  • Volunteer at a summer meal site and provide some activities for the kids.

School Meals Programs

  • Students are eligible for free, reduced price, or full price meals based on their household income. This is determined through the school meals application that their families are asked to complete at the beginning of the school year.

      Eligibility for federal nutrition programs is often based on the information contained in these applications. That is why it is extremely important that families complete the form and return it to their child’s school. Unfortunately, many families do not return their applications to the school.

    How can you help?

  • You can share the following information with families in your community
    • School Meal Applications are confidential.
    • You do not need to have a social security number to apply for school meal benefits.
    • Application forms are available in 26 different languages. Ask your school for a form in your preferred language.
    • You can complete a School Meal Application at ANY point during the year. Just request an application from your school.
    • If you already filled out a School Meal Application but your income has changed since then, you can fill out a new one.
    • Students who meet any of the following criteria do not need to submit income information to qualify for free meals: homeless, runaway, and migrant youth, recipients of SNAP benefits (formerly food stamps), recipients of TANF benefits (cash assistance)
    • If you have applied for free or reduced price school meals for your child but were turned away because you make too much money, you may still be eligible to receive SNAP benefits (formerly food stamps).
    • If you receive SNAP benefits, your child is automatically eligible to receive FREE school meals! Call Project Bread’s FoodSource Hotline at 1-800-645-8333 to find out if you are eligible for SNAP benefits.

National School Breakfast Program

When students eat breakfast at school, they start the day ready to learn. Students skip breakfast at home for many different reasons:

  • They are not hungry when they first wake up.
  • They are rushed in the morning and do not have time to eat.
  • Their families do not have the financial resources to provide breakfast.

No matter what the reason, the school breakfast program is an excellent option for all families. Unfortunately, breakfast is usually offered before the start of the school day, making it logistically difficult for many children to access the program.

How can you help?

  • Distribute school breakfast promotional materials to your friends, neighbors, colleagues, and community partners. These are available for free from the Child Nutrition Outreach Program at Project Bread.
  • Encourage your child’s school to make breakfast a part of the regular school day so that it is accessible to all children.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)- Formerly the Food Stamp Program

SNAP provides low-income individuals with money to purchase food. SNAP recipients receive their monthly allocation on an “electronic benefits transfer” (EBT) card, similar to a debit card.

How can you help?

  • Notify your friends, neighbors, colleagues, and community partners to call Project Bread’s FoodSource Hotline at 1-800-645-8333 for more information on how to apply for SNAP benefits or to be screened for SNAP benefits.

Project Bread’s FoodSource Hotline 1-800-645-8333.

The FoodSource Hotline can provide information about SNAP/food stamps, emergency food programs, and school meals. Counselors can answer questions in 160 different languages.

Hotline hours:
Monday-Friday: 8:00am-7pm

Saturday: 10:00-2:00

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Thoughts from a Parishioner:

I think its great that Grace Church has finally been able to get involved with various hunger projects. I think many of us want to help but are not always sure where to start. Hunger is such a big problem but I sometimes wonder why that is. In a country as large as this , with the resources we have , why is there still so much hunger and poverty? Why does the problem get bigger instead of improving?

I see it more and more among the patients I take care of in their homes. Most are over 70 but they are people who worked and contributed to society but do not have enough to live on now. There are programs to help like SNAP, meals on wheels, free and reduced price lunches in schools, food pantries and meal sites but these are not really solutions to the problem. What is wrong with our society when so many people are in need? The disparity between rich and poor is ever expanding. Our government priorities are often misguided. People should have enough to purchase their own food not have to depend on government programs to get enough to eat.

I guess part of the problem is trying to figure out what the causes of hunger and poverty are and what do we need to change in our society and our government to improve this. Hunger seems to be the symptom of bigger problems. Do we as a church, as Christians, as moral, just people need to examine this and start to get more involved in the advocacy /social justice aspect of this problem? Do we get involved with a larger program like the UN's Millennium Development Goals or do we start smaller; more locally?

What do you think?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Hunger Justice Series Week Two: Charity and Justice

Ruy Costa from Episcopal City Mission to address the issues of Hunger and Poverty from Charity to Justice.
Ruy will deal with two basic approaches to issues of hunger and poverty, works of charity and works of justice, from the perspective of their effectiveness, costs and long term impact. Background information will include some discussion of growing economic inequality in the United States. The spectrum of models includes charity, volunteer service, advocacy and social structural change. Some of the illustrations to be discussed include works done by the Episcopal City Mission, such as helping build affordable housing, grant making and organizing public policy advocacy.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Highlights from Sarah Cluggish's primer on Hunger Issues in Massachusetts:

"Hunger in the United States is obviously a different phenomena than what you see in developing countries throughout the world. But it's still a very real and serious problem that millions of families face. And unfortunately, shame, lack of knowledge and a feeling of helplessness makes the problem difficult to talk about for those struggling with hunger and those trying to help.

The USDA measures hunger in terms of food security. This scientifically-tested approach breaks households into four groups: high food security (no problems consistently accessing nutritious food); marginal food security (occasional problems, but nothing that substantially impacts the household's diet); low food security (households are able to access food, but not provide a consistent and nutritious diet - eating cereal without milk three times a day at the end of each month); and very low food security (adults and children are regularly skipping meals because they don't have the resources to purchase food).

The USDA measures food security every year in a supplemental survey to the US Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. In 2008, 14.6% of American households were food insecure and 5.7% had very low food security - the highest recorded since 1995. In Massachusetts, 8.3% of households (about 554,000 people) were food insecure, 3.8% had very low food security.

Hunger impacts the health outcomes of our most vulnerable populations - children, elders and the chronically ill. Food insecure children and elders are more likely to suffer from asthma, anemia, and cardiovascular disease. They are hospitalized more often and for longer periods. Food insecure mothers and children have more anxiety, depression and behavior issues. And food insecurity can contribute to childhood obesity.

There are a number of efforts to combat hunger - food pantries, soup kitchens, community meals programs, federal nutrition programs (such as food stamps, school meals, summer meals and WIC (Women, Infants and Children)), community gardens, food co-ops, etc.

What can you do to help?

- Support your local food pantries and soup kitchens by volunteering your time and/or contributing money and food.

- Participate in the
Walk for Hunger on Sunday, May 2nd!

- Consider partnering with other organizations, schools, etc. to promote school breakfast programs and summer meals programs in Medford. Help de-stigmatize these programs and make children feel good about participating in them.

- Consider partnering with other groups in Medford to offer more community meal opportunities."