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New Volunteer Opportunities!

11 Dec
2013

UPDATE: THESE OPPORTUNITIES HAVE PASSED

Winter 2013: As the holidays approach and people get into the giving spirit, I’ll be posting new volunteer opportunities that pop up around NYC. Feel free to share these with friends and family who might be interested in helping out a local non-profit, whether it’s just for a day or for a few months!

 

Holiday Help at the Food Bank for NYC

Food Bank procures and distributes food to a network of more than 1,000 community-based member programs citywide, helping to provide 400,000 free meals a day for New Yorkers in need. From Meals on Heels on the Upper West to Souper Saturdays in Park Slope, there are tons of ways to help out the Food Bank  this holiday season. Sign up here: http://volunteer.foodbanknyc.org/holidays

 

Mulchfest 2014 with NYRP: Saturday, January 11, 12:00pm–2:00pm

Every year Mulchfest diverts thousands of Christmas trees from landfills and recycles them into wood chips that can be used to protect and nourish trees in our parks, gardens and street tree pits. Help spread fresh Christmas tree chippings to street trees and work on various winter maintenance projects in the Sherman Creek Park.

To register to volunteer or to get more information e-mail volunteer@nyrp.org.

 

Helpline Volunteer/Intern with the National Eating Disorders Association (Long-Term)

Position Summary: Information and Referral Helpline interns will offer information and referrals to callers and answer basic questions regarding body image and eating disorders in a caring and compassionate manner. The intern will be continually challenged to accept continuing advancement in responsibilities on the Helpline as the intern becomes ready. The Helpline intern may also assist with other duties in the National Eating Disorders Association office as needed (i.e. writing letters, assisting with information distribution, etc.). This position is a great learning opportunity and involves a minimum of 15 hours of training.

Primary Responsibilities:

  •   Information and Referral Services

·        Provide positive, respectful and timely responses regarding eating disorder information requests via incoming phone calls, voicemail messages, emails, forums, instant messages, and social media sites under Helpline responsibility.

·        Ensure the distribution of Helpline information and referral material in a timely manner that fits the needs of the individual and is presented in a professional manner.

·        Compose general letters of response for information requests.

·        Develop skills related to database management.

·        Increase knowledge and understanding concerning eating disorders and how to appropriately support those affected by them.

·        When deemed appropriate by Helpline Supervisor, the intern may assist in the training of new Helpline volunteers and interns.

·        Contribute to the association’s mission of eliminating eating disorders and body dissatisfaction.

  • Program and Administrative Duties:

·        Assist Programs Department staff with ongoing educational and outreach projects.

·        Assist with minor administrative tasks as needed.

Required Qualifications:

·        High energy, positive attitude, and enthusiasm.

·        Meticulous attention to detail and strong organizational skills.

·        Excellent communication skills and demonstrated ability to provide quality customer service.

·        Strong computer skills, data and word-processing ability.

·        Must be dependable and self-motivated.

·        Able to work effectively as an individual and as part of a team.

·        Must be able to work in New York office.

Time Frame and Commitment:

·        Completion of 15-20 hour Helpline training taking place during the intern’s scheduled shift.

·        Minimum of 8 hours per week for a minimum of 4 months

·        Participation in one activity taking place outside of the main office.

·        Monthly reflections to be submitted and reviewed with Helpline Supervisor to set continuing advancement objectives.

·        Must be able to work at the NEDA headquarters, in New York City, during Helpline hours.

Contact Erin Brekke, Volunteer Coordinator at ebrekke@nationaleatingdisorders.org to apply.

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Finishing up the SNAP Challenge: Days 5,6,7

25 Jun
2013

As I write this, my stomach is full of Indian take-out and chocolate. My first day off the SNAP Challenge and I’ve already spent about $25 on food in one day, compared to last week when I spent just as much for five days. Did I learn anything from this experience? 100% yes. Have I touched a dish today or set foot in the kitchen? Absolutely not.

Let’s backtrack a little to Day 5: Friday. By this point I was tired of being in the kitchen, and my usual fervor for making every meal special was waning. I boiled some pasta and tossed it with the last of my red sauce from earlier in the week, and to top it off, I added some corn. Yes, corn. I have no idea why.

The morning of Day 6, the corn pasta made a repeat appearance as my breakfast. For lunch I packed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich which I ate at an outdoor cafe, as Paul had a blue cheese burger. Speaking of Paul, did I mention he is no longer doing the Challenge at this point? He tapped out on Day 3 due to a misunderstanding of the rules; if iced coffees weren’t allowed, he wanted out. But I digress.. On our way home from a walk in the park, I stopped at Western Beef to see what else I could buy with my remaining budget. I wound up leaving with two apples and a sweet potato and $0.21 left in my #SNAPChallenge wallet.

Inspired by Chef Cowan’s chorizo hash and disgusted by my previous dinner, I made a sweet potato hash with swiss chard, corn, and garlic scapes, topped with an egg. It was delicious and reinvigorated my determination for the last day, whereby I woke up and headed straight to the kitchen to make pancakes. Realizing I had no milk, I decided to power through and use water instead, resulting in the grossest-but-best-looking pancakes I’ve ever had.

These pancakes=gross.

These pancakes=gross but edible.

For lunch I had another peanut butter and jelly in the park, and an apple with peanut butter later in the day. By dinner on Day 7 I was out of everything except bread and pasta (and peanut butter and jelly, but I’d had my fill of peanut butter for the day), so I wound up eating spaghetti with butter, garlic powder, and basil grown in my apartment.Last dinner

 

 

So what did the SNAP Challenge teach me?

For one, having a limited budget for food is scary. This isn’t the same as saying “I’ll set aside $30 for food this week, and $30 for other necessities.” This is “I have $31.50, and once all my food is gone, it’s gone until my EBT card gets refilled.”

It’s also a pain in the ass. I spent more time cooking, and washing dishes and tupperware this week than I have in a long time. It’s not an impossible task, but it requires more effort and is likely undertaken by people with disabilities or the elderly, who make up a large percentage of SNAP recipients, in addition to low-income families with children to feed. In other words, people who legitimately have a harder time cooking and cleaning every day than I do.

Resources and Farm Bill Shpeel

My daily musings about nutritional shopping and cooking programs were quelled by some research: ESNY (Eat Smart New York! SNAP-Ed) is New York State’s SNAP nutrition education program. Cornell University Cooperative Extension delivers SNAP supported nutrition education in Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and the Bronx. Here, eligible participants learn about MyPyramid/MyPlate, Menu Planning, Food Preparation, Nutrition, Fitness, Food Budgeting, Food Shopping, Food Safety, and Physical Activity. I’m unable to find the percentage of SNAP recipients who participate, but the program is available for participation, and that’s obviously a step in the right direction.

I also found some additional resources, including “Just Say Yes to Fruits and Vegetables” which as the name implies, provides recipes and shopping tips for eating healthy veg & fruit snacks and meals. In addition, SNAP recipients can visit Snaptomarket.com and see which farmer’s markets in their area accept EBT/WIC.

The purpose of doing the SNAP Challenge was to raise awareness of the program itself, and the dangers it faced on the House floor, as Congress voted on it’s fate and potentially cutting $20 billion. It would’ve meant $3.9 billion dollars cut over the course of ten years, and 2 Million people losing their access to SNAP (As of March 2013, there were 48 Million people enrolled). The Farm Bill is a somewhat confusing piece of legislation that touches on a whole slew of issues, from agriculture to environmental and wildlife protection; it’s comprised mainly of SNAP funding (about 75%) in addition to farm policy, making it hard to decide on it’s fate without being able to view the two separately as individual bills. That said, here’s an interesting read on why it failed to pass, and why that’s a good thing that it did. For something a little easier on the eyes, here’s a neat infographic about the House cuts versus the Senate.

The House will have to get their partisan ‘ish together and create something that works before December. I  hope that the SNAP Challenge helped prove, at least a tiny bit, that every penny counts.

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

Hurricane Sandy Volunteer/Donation Projects: From Gale A. Brewer’s Office

5 Nov

I just received the following email from councilwoman Gale Brewer, and wanted to pass along as it contained a lot of great information about new donation drop-off locations and volunteer opportunities. See below:

Today, Monday, November 5, 2012 West Side institutions are working with former Community Board Chair Mel Wymore to fill a large truck of supplies to go to Staten Island. You could drop off supplies at JCC, 334 Amsterdam Avenue at West 76 Street, NY NY up to 10pm on Monday, November 5. Items needed: blankets, toiletries, wipes, flashlights, batteries. No clothes. The truck will leave the West Side on Tuesday, November 6, 2012.

On Monday, November 5, 2012…info from the City Council as to where assistance is needed:

Staten Island  Councilmember Oddo and Assemblymember Malliotakis have organized volunteers throughout the weekend.  Today they are at the Staten Island Recreational Association at 599 Fr. Capodanno Blvd. from 9am to dusk and will continue to help clean out homes that have been impacted by the storm. They are in need of cleaning supplies – shovels, rakes, brooms, gloves, garbage bags, masks, toiletries and pharmaceuticals (e.g. Tyelonol, Advil, etc.).

Brooklyn Red Hook Councilmember Gonzalez along with a number of local community groups have been organizing volunteers to help residents and local businesses in the Red Hook area.  Volunteers should report to 402 Van Brunt Street, between 10 am – 5 pm.

Coney Island  Councilmember Domenic Recchia is coordinating volunteers, at 2770 West 5th St, Room 4C (nearest open F Train stop is Avenue X), and they will send you to wherever you are needed most.

Park Slope The Park Slope Armory shelter (361 15th Street, between 7th & 8th Avenues) continues to need volunteers who can work a 12-hour shift, starting at 8 AM or 8 PM daily. You need to be comfortable working with the elderly, disabled, and other people with special needs and you cannot bring your children. If they have too many volunteers, you may be turned away, so be prepared for that. The John Jay High School shelter (237 7th Avenue, between 4th & 5th Streets) also continues to need day, evening, and overnight volunteers. You need to be able to dedicate at least 6-8 hours and cannot bring your children.

-From Brad Hoylman: Many of my neighbors are still without heat, hot water or plumbing. In coordination with the offices of our local elected officials and the Chelsea Reform Democratic Club, we are seeking three (3) shifts of volunteers to go door-to-door in Fulton Houses and Westbeth to assist residents today, Monday, November 5.  How you can help: Show up at either 12 p.m. or 3 p.m. at the Fulton Center Auditorium (119 9th Ave between 17th and 18th Streets) to go door-to-door at Fulton Houses to assess residents’ needs. OR  Show up at 4 p.m. at Westbeth (55 Bethune Street Washington and West Streets) to help carry water and other supplies to residents. hoylmanforsenate@gmail.com

 Thank you, Gale A. Brewer!

 

Hurricane Sandy Recovery: Coney Island

3 Nov

NYC Council Member Domenic Recchia, who represents Bensonhurst, Brighton Beach, Coney Island, & Gravesend, has been organizing volunteers and donations since the moment Sandy passed through his Brooklyn neighborhood. I’ve watched his Twitter and Facebook feeds flash new information into the wee hours of the night, and I applaud his team’s efforts. Join him as they continue to help distribute essential items to the community:

If you can volunteer in Coney Island to distribute food, water, and supplies, go to 2770 W. 5th, Room 4C. That is volunteer and donation central for Domenic Recchia’s team.

If you can donate food, water, and supplies, please bring them to 2770 W. 5th, Room 4C. They are in especially high need of water and food.

Please direct all communications to sandyreliefrecchia@gmail.com. To stay updated on volunteer opportunities in this area, along with vital information regarding food and water distribution, visit his website: http://drecchia.com/