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Day 2 of the SNAP Challenge

19 Jun

Having lost the gusto I had on Day 1, today was a little less exciting and a lot more like a regular work day sans coffee. Another egg and banana breakfast, a glass of water. Around 11:30am, I really needed something to snack on but wasn’t quite ready to dive into my spaghetti, so I headed downstairs to the green market for a piece of fruit. As my coworkers each bought a $4 lemonades, I picked through a pile of peaches ($2.99/lb) for my sugary treat and headed to the scale with what I thought was an average sized peach. It turned out to be a half-pound monster that cost me $1.67. This immediately made me reconsider my snack urge: how hungry was I? The $31.50 budget comes to about $1.50 per meal. Was I hungry enough to eat a SNAP-budget-meal-worthy-peach all at once? I decided I wasn’t.

For the next hour I let the peach sit my desk and mask the smell of farts that was emanating from myjames-and-giant-peach garbage can full of egg shells (yea I said it, boiled eggs smell like farts. don’t act surprised). I decided around 1pm that it was finally time to eat my leftover spaghetti and have some more water. Finally, at 3pm, that peach met it’s maker: I carried it to the kitchen and sliced it in half to find the most deliciously ripe and juicy peach I’ve ever had. I packed up the other half to bring home for later and brought my bounty back to my desk before anyone saw the peachy gold I had foraged outside.

With the saga of the peach over and dessert to look forward to later, the day carried on. After some overtime and visit to the vet with our cat, I got home at 7:45. For a few minutes I considered eating bean salad for dinner, but realized I needed to prepare something for lunch tomorrow: back to Western Beef I went. As I shopped, Paul happily ate his turkey chilli, which he topped with cheese and put in a tortilla. This is the fourth chilli meal he’s had in 2 days.

I came home having spent $8.34 on peanut butter, jelly, a loaf of bread, an apple, and a can of chopped tomato. I turned the bean salad into bean chili with some pantry spices, leftover pasta sauce, and can of chopped tomato, and topped it off with some chicken. It was about 9:15pm.

As I sit here now typing at 10:30pm, my stomach feels pretty full. I’m guessing its the massive amount of beans and eggs. Not enough to stop me from devouring the rest of that peach, but enough to make me appreciate a fibrous diet with ample greens and fruits.

Rachel’s Budget: $20.98 spent, $10.52 left

Paul’s Budget: $31.50 spent, $0.00 left

 

Click headings below to learn more:

About the Farm Bill and proposed cuts

About the Food Bank for NYC & SNAP Challenge

Learn about SNAP eligibility standards and allowances in NYC

See the USDA requirements for eligibility and do the math

Learn the difference between SNAP, WIC, and EBT

TELL CONGRESS TO PROTECT THE SNAP PROGRAM

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Day 1 of the SNAP Challenge

18 Jun

Last week I decided to take part in the SNAP Challenge alongside many others and the Food Bank for NYC from June 12th-18th to help raise awareness for the upcoming vote that could effect it’s future. For those 7 days, I would have $31.50 to spend on my food (about $1.50 per meal) which is the average amount of money provided to people on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

At the end of this post you can read some background information and find resources on the Farm Bill 2013, SNAP Program, and what’s at risk. AKA, the “What’s all the fuss about? Section”

Never one to turn down a challenge, my husband Paul also signed up. He has no qualms about eating the same meal for days on end, so this is likely a factor that will work to his advantage. On the other side of the spectrum, I enjoy pretending the Food Network has hidden cameras set up in my kitchen; every day is a new episode of Chopped, and I never eat the same thing twice in one week if I can avoid it.

Sidebar: “Hey, um, didn’t you already miss this? It’s June 17th.” If that’s what you were just thinking, you’d be correct. Before I even started I hit a road block: I had weekend plans out of town, which meant I’d have to forgo the BBQ and pies and fresh market finds, bring my own food, and basically miss all of the main activities planned. Literally, the first thing we did was put together a brand new BBQ, and the second thing we did was cook lunch on it. So, here is my first realization during the challenge: I really couldn’t go on that trip if I were living on a food stamp budget unless I was willing to let my friends foot the bill. Since I wasn’t, I decided to start the SNAP Challenge today, on June 17th. Judge me if you must, because I already feel like I failed, but here we are: Day 1.

Paul & Rachel Go Shopping

Instead of making a right out of our door to Whole Foods, we turned left and headed to Western Beef. Having grown accustom to eating as much organic and fresh foods as possible, this was our first big change. It just didn’t seem possible to shop there on a budget. I’m looking forward to going in there next week and comparing prices for the same items I purchased at Western Beef; for now, it would just make me sad to 1, see all the food I can’t afford and 2, see all the food I’ve been paying way too much for. <<insert sad walking here>>

I played it safe and left myself some wiggle room for the rest of the week. Contents: Half a chicken, black beans, chick peas, kidney beans, corn, 1 onion, 3 bananas, dozen eggs, 1lb of pasta, and 1 large can of crushed tomato

I played it safe and left myself some wiggle room for the rest of the week. Contents: Half a chicken, black beans, chick peas, kidney beans, corn, 1 onion, 3 bananas, 1 dozen eggs, 1lb of pasta, and 1 large can of crushed tomato. TOTAL SPENT: $10.97

Paul went in pretty confident, knowing that he's lived off of chili before and he could do it again. Gladly. Contents: Jar of tomato sauce, chick peaks, black beans, small can of crushed tomato, pink beans, milk, 1lb of turkey, chili mix, 1lb pasta, box of corn flakes. TOTAL SPENT: $16.52

Paul went in pretty confident, knowing that he’s lived off of chili before and he could do it again, gladly. Contents: Jar of tomato sauce, chick peaks, black beans, small can of crushed tomato, pink beans, milk, 1lb of turkey, tortilla wraps, chili mix, 1lb pasta, box of corn flakes. TOTAL SPENT: $16.52

Day 1 Meals

I had a hard boiled egg and a banana for breakfast. Around 11:30am I “snacked” on another hard-boiled egg. For lunch I ate some bean/corn/onion salad (which will be making numerous cameos this week), and boiled chicken. I used the chicken bones to make a stock which will see some action later this week in a soup. For dinner, spaghetti with marinara. Even though it would’ve been easier to buy a jar of sauce, I just couldn’t. Food stamps or not, Italians don’t do jarred sauce. It’s worth the extra effort to make it from scratch and save a few pennies in the process. I used fresh basil from a plant I have and a lot of hot crushed peppers to hide the fact that I forgot to buy fresh garlic and couldn’t use parmesan cheese.

While I slaved away in the kitchen, Paul had a bowl of cereal for breakfast and BOLDLY picked up some Pad Thai for lunch (that’s minus $8 from his budget). I’m not sure if he’s a genius or just arrogant, but I’m feeling silly for boiling chicken bones all night. For dinner, he made himself about 3 lbs of turkey chili and ate it as a burrito. This will be his lunch and dinner for the next few days.

Day 1 Recap

I’m not hungry, but I wouldn’t say I’m thrilled with what tomorrow looks like: more eggs, more spaghetti, more beans. I also realized quickly that in order to eat during the day, I had to plan out my meals at night and prepare/cook ahead. It’s time-consuming and time isn’t something people always have to devote to cooking.

Useful Information:

Food stamps were renamed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP in 2008; the goal of the program is to help recipients maintain healthy diets by making relatively expensive items like fresh fruits and vegetables accessible to those with low incomes. Since the literal food ‘stamps’ were mostly replaced by Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards, food stamp is a somewhat outdated term.

Click headings below to learn more:

About the Farm Bill and proposed cuts

About the Food Bank for NYC & SNAP Challenge

Learn about SNAP eligibility standards and allowances in NYC

See the USDA requirements for eligibility and do the math

Learn the difference between SNAP, WIC, and EBT

TELL CONGRESS TO PROTECT THE SNAP PROGRAM

Spotlight On…Scott Warren of Generation Citizen

7 Jun
2013

Screen shot 2013-06-07 at 2.53.16 PMScott Warren is the co-founder and Executive Director of Generation Citizen (GC). He is a current recipient of an Echoing Green  Fellowship, was a finalist for the Truman Scholarship, and was recently recognized by Forbes; 30 Under 30 as one of the most promising social entrepreneurs in the country. In other words, this guy is onto something big and people are taking notice.

The mission of Generation Citizen (GC): “To strengthen our nation’s democracy by empowering young people to become engaged and effective citizens.  We envision a democracy in which every citizen participates in the political process. GC teaches teenagers direct political action.  Through an innovative in-class curriculum, students work with local leaders to fix local problems.  Through this real-world experience, our teens are building an active democracy. Our innovative, action-based program will revolutionize civics education in this country. Generation Citizen is building a new generation of youth activists and leaders; a generation inspired and equipped to make change.”

Below is a Q&A session that took place with Scott, describing how he came up with the idea for GC, how it fits into our society, and what he’s forward to in the future.

 Question: Tell us a bit about your background. Why did you start GC?

Scott Warren: I’m originally from San Diego, California, where I lived until I was eight years old.  My dad then joined the State Department, and I started moving all over Latin America and Africa.  Through that experience, I had the opportunity GC logo-leftto emerge a number of emerging democracies; including the first truly democratic elections in Kenya’s history, in 2002 (they just had another election just a month ago).   In one of the most rural areas of Kenya, I witnessed lines of people hundreds deep, passionate about using their voices to make a collective difference. When the opposition candidate won the election (a rarity in an emerging democracy), the tremendous potential of democracy in action became immediately apparent.

My work since has focused on catalyzing that passion for the democratic spirit, co-founding GC as a Brown University senior in 2008 with the strong desire to revive our country’s democracy through our schools. In college, I worked to end the genocide in Darfur, Sudan, serving as the National Student Director for the organization STAND, and leading on successful efforts to divest Brown, the City of Providence, and the State of Rhode Island from foreign companies doing business in Sudan. Reflecting on my social justice work, I identified two principles that led to the founding of GC:

  • Most secondary students have not developed the skills or mindsets to become engaged in their communities or the democratic process.
  • The most effective way to encourage young people to participate in that process is through direct engagement in it.

I believe that our nation’s schools can and must play a critical role in preparing young people for active and effective citizenship. Through our action civics approach, students have the opportunity to learn civics by actually doing civics.  Through participation in the program, students will become motivated for long-term engagement, and have the necessary skills and knowledge to lead change on important community issues. Our students will break the cycle of disengagement that contributes to the exclusion of entire communities from our democracy.

Q: What themes do you see with regard to issues currently being championed by students here in NYC?

SW: While we do see some similarity in terms of focus issues in NYC, the projects that often stand out the most (and have the most success in directing concrete change) are those that are highly specific, focused on a problem that may impact the entire city but has very specific repercussions in a particular neighborhood or community.  For example, students often select topics that could fall under the broad buckets of “community safety” or “public health,” but the projects that truly stand out as having driven real, concrete change are those that dig a level deeper.  A class at Mott Hall High School in Harlem effectively addressed gang violence at a bus stop near their school by working with the local police office to place an undercover policeman on duty, and a class at Concord High School on Staten Island decided to address a highly localized problem, prescription drug abuse. Many of the students had been impacted personally by this issue and some were recovering drug abusers themselves. They developed a peer mentoring program to educate local middle school students about the consequences and dangers of prescription drug abuse, and are working with a State Senator on next steps.  

GC encourages the selection of these types of highly specific, targeted focus issues, recognizing that politics in inherently localized. Certainly the projects are relevant for the entire city, but we push our students to get specific and truly use the political process at the local level.

Q: Do you think encouraging young people to engage in action-civics falls to parents, educators or government?

SW: It falls to a combination of parents, educators, and the government to engage young people in the political process.  GC believes, however, that it can work to engage every young person through the institution that affects the most people on a daily basis- our schools. In the future, our current students will serve as models for civic participation for the next generation, but schools should continue to provide students the opportunity to engage in a targeted, personally relevant learning experience through the GC action civics curriculum.

While local governments could offer more resources and make information around elections or the development of legislation more widely available, their support of civics education in schools (during regular school hours) should be their main role in preparing young people for engagement in the democracy. At the federal level, we believe the government can and should prioritize civics education, and hold schools accountable to concrete goals, recognizing that if our young people are not learning to engage in the political process, the future of our democracy is at risk.

Q: What has been the feedback from local decision makers regarding youth speaking out and working to make a change?

SW: Through the GC program, middle and high school students have the opportunity to directly connect with local decision makers, seeking feedback on their action projects and lobbying them for support. Local leaders visit GC classrooms or serve as a judge at Civics Day (our end-of-semester “science fair for civics”) and truly engage in the work of our students. In December, NYC Comptroller John Liu attended Civics Day and addressed the importance of students speaking out working toward change. In many cases, these leaders have incorporated students’ ideas into their professional decision-making.

One of our main goals is to get leaders to recognize that young people have valid and important ideas that can help to make their communities a better place.  We do not want our program to tokenize young people- we want to see them as real participants.

Q: The U.S. lags far behind most counties academically. How does the US measure up to other countries when it comes to civics and youth engagement?

Not good.  In terms of overall voter participation, the United States ranks 137th out of 170 recognized democracies.  It’s difficult to compare civics, since every country has their own systems.  But overall, maybe because we consider ourselves a more developed democracy, we spend less time developing our own future citizens.

Q: How do you think teaching civics in schools will impact our county’s future? 

SW: GC envisions a democracy in which every citizen, regardless of background, participates, ensuring that government is responsive to the needs of all citizens. We believe that teaching action civics in our nation’s public schools can play a critical role in realizing this vision. 

In our society, when a young person turns 16, they are incredibly excited to receive their driver’s license.  But in the year before, they must take multiple driving lessons, tests, and practice behind the wheel.

When young people turn 18, they receive the right to vote.  But most are not excited, and even fewer have been properly trained as citizens.  It is almost as if we expect young people to wake up at 18 and know how to run our democracy.  Effective civics education can be the driver’s education course for democracy.  And if we do this effectively, we’ll have a more educated populace, a better run government, and a more functional democracy.

Q: Are you advocating civics be taught in every school in the country? How early do we start?

SW: Yes.  And we should start early.  When done well, civics education should be included in every other subject.  Every first graders should be learning about how their opinions and thoughts matter as engaged citizens.  This is not currently happening, and one of the primary aims of GC is to get every school to realize that teaching civics is not a nice to have, but a need to have

Q: What can community leaders and parents take away from a program like this? Can what students are learning in the classroom be translated to home life and social relationships?

SW: The skills that students develop through participation in the program extend far beyond the GC classroom. Public speaking, research, engaging and persuading local decision makers – these are skills that will support students’ academic and professional endeavors long after the completion of our program. It is important for community leaders and parents to note that, in many cases, students are actually creating change on the ground in their communities – not only are they developing skills for future civic engagement, they are truly improving their communities in the present, and focusing on changes that are sustainable and will have real impact (as opposed to a one-time service learning project).

Additionally, we are currently piloting a program that will connect some of our most motivated students to local internship opportunities with non-profit organizations and electoral campaigns, creating a direct link between the GC classroom and professional relationship building.

Q: What is the biggest takeaway you hope students learn at the end of this course?

SW: Through participation in GC, we aim for students to understand that taking action on important community issues, and being politically engaged, is not a one-time experience. It is not something you learn in a GC class and, after the close of the semester, never address again. We aim to increase students’ civic knowledge, motivation and skills so that they are excited and able to lead change and be engaged for the long-term. 

We want students to recognize that their voice matters, both for their individual well-being and for the betterment of their communities. They have a critical role to play, and it extends far beyond the walls of the classroom. After participating in the program, GC students often recognize that they truly can make a difference. One former GC student and current college freshman stated, “GC changed my life. It showed me that no matter how big or little, I could make a difference in my community, and if I try hard enough, the world.”  We believe that participation in our program can help students understand not only that they are capable of making a difference, but that the health of our democracy and our nation depends upon their doing so.

Q:  Where do you see yourself and GC in 10 years?

SW: My life’s work will be working to improve the concept of democracy, whether in this country or abroad.  This may include educating others, or serving in policy or politics.

In ten years, GC will be the biggest civics education organization in the country, working with over 100,000 students per year. We will have built formal partnerships with school districts nationwide to ensure that every student in the communities we serve is receiving an effective civics education.

We will continue to work toward our long-term impact goals, described below. By 2050, GC will have played a leading role in the revitalization of our democracy by having:

  • Directly worked with over 1 million young people; and
  • Partnered with every major urban school district nationwide to create an effective action civics curriculum.

      Because of our work, our country will be one in which:

  • All citizens are actively engaged our democracy;
  • Young people recognize political participation as vital to improving their lives and communities;
  • Young people form one of the largest voting blocs in the country (increased from the 20% of 18-29 year olds that voted in the 2010 midterm); and every school nationwide provides the tools and experiences needed for effective citizenship.

Call for Volunteers: Harlem Arts Festival 2013

30 May
2013

The Harlem Arts Festival is a free annual festival presenting music, dance, theater, and visual artists based in or inspired by Harlem. Taking place at the Richard Rodgers Amphitheater in Marcus Garvey Park on June 29th & 30th, they invite the community to celebrate Harlem’s vibrant cultural landscape and contemporary artistry.

They are looking for Stage Technicians, Greeters/Info Booth Attendances, Servers, Kids Corner Attendants, Builders/Runners, Medical personnel  Merchandise sellers, and Artist Liaisons to volunteer for this amazing weekend celebration. Last year 33 artists performed on 2 different stages over 2 days in front of approximately 1,000 attendees. This year the festival is expected to draw an even larger crowd and that is why they need you more than ever! Volunteers are the key to making this another wildly successful event.

If you would like more information about the festival please visit harlemartsfestival.com and if you would like to volunteer, please contact Leah Diaz at leah@harlemartsfestival.com or at 253-318-9872.

A more detailed description of the volunteer roles they are looking to fill is below:

Stage Technicians – work directly with the Production Stage Manager to meet the technical requirements provided in each performing artists’ tech rider. Volunteers should have a background in electronics or production and should be able to lift at least 30 lbs. Some heavy lifting will be required.

Greeters, Info Booth Attendants, and Servers for Thursday Night only – must be interested in working closely with festival attendees and providing friendly and knowledgeable services. Volunteers with exceptional people skills may be assigned to various posts throughout the position including greeters, info booth staff, or servers at VIP catered events.

Kids Corner Attendants – work to provide arts in education activities for children of all ages and engage them in art making with crafts and performance. Volunteers will oversee child safety, facilitate crafts and performance games, and confer with parents about specific drop off and pick up times of individual children. Volunteers with a special skill or interest in working with children or in education should apply for this category.

Builders/Runners – primary set up and breakdown crew of vendor booths, artist tables, and gallery walk. Each assignment will be dispatched and managed by Volunteer Coordinator. Each assignment is to be completed as efficiently as possible, and during intervals, volunteers will assist with providing information and friendly service to festival attendees. Should be able to lift 15 lbs and stand for up to 6 hours.

Medical – must have a particular skill or interest in first aid, CPR, or other related medical service. Proof of certification will be required. Volunteers will be stationed in the medical tent and will attend to festival staff and attendees with medical concerns. Volunteers will work closely with Mt. Sinai EMT service and Fire Dept. in case of medical emergency.

Merchandise – manage the sale and distribution of festival merchandise. Harlem Arts Festival t-shirts, tote bags, posters, and magnets will be on sale throughout the festival. Being able to accurately record inventory and cash flow reports of total sales is a plus. Volunteers will be responsible for set up and breakdown of merchandise tent.

Artist Liaison – will be charged with delivering personalized service and attention to each of the participating festival artists. Volunteers will be responsible for artist check-in, orientation, and company management. Performing artists will be escorted and toured through the green room and visual artists will be shown to their individual booth and offered set up. Liaisons should have some background in arts or production, and will assist in transitions between acts and work closely with stage technicians and Production Stage Manager. Liaisons may be asked to assist with set up of visual artist booth or gallery space. Liaisons should be able to lift 20 lbs and stand for up to 6 hours.

 

 

 

It’s My Park Day – May 18

16 May
2013

It’s My Park Day, presented by Partnership for Parks, will take place on Saturday, May 18th.  Throughout the city, New Yorkers will be chipping in to clean up and help maintain their parks and playgrounds across all five boroughs. Partnerships for Parks invites dedicated community groups to organize It’s My Park Day volunteer projects and free cultural events in their neighborhood parks. Volunteer activities range from horticulture to painting projects, along with a variety of free events, including kayaking, dance performance, and much, much more!

Below are some links to help you find a park near you-strap on those boots and get ready to get dirty!

 

NYC Parks and Recreation Department

Partnership for Parks

MillionTreesNYC