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Listen v. Lock-Up: Unheard Stories From Teens in Trouble

15 Nov
LISTEN V. LOCK-UP:
UNHEARD STORIES FROM TEENS IN TROUBLE
One Night Only – December 4, 2013
THEATRICAL STAGING OF THE WORK OF YC WRITERS
With Commentary by
The Central Park Five Filmmaker Sarah Burns and
YC Alum Raymond Santana, One of the Central Park Five
Event to Take Place at Morgan Stanley, to Benefit Youth Communication
On Wednesday, December 4, 2013, Youth Communication (YC), the award-winning nonprofit publisher and advocate of reading and writing, will present Listen v. Lock-Up: Unheard Stories from Teens in Trouble.
This unique and powerful one-night-only theatrical event features the voices of one of New York City’s most marginalized groups: teens who have been through the justice system. The performance will take place at Morgan Stanley and will benefit Youth Communication’s literacy and youth development programs.
The production will intertwine dramatic performances of true teen stories by YC writers, with clips from the Ken Burns film The Central Park Five, which re-examines the Central Park jogger case and the five teenagers whose convictions for the crime were later overturned. After the performance, filmmaker Sarah Burns will talk with Raymond Santana, one of the falsely convicted teens and a Youth Communication alum. Mr. Santana participated in a Youth Communication writing workshop while he was confined at the Spofford Juvenile Detention Center.
Joining the conversation will be Marlo, a Youth Communication writer now in his second year of college, and Shawn Welcome, who faced similar challenges but evaded the law and eventually rose from high school dropout to high school principal. They will talk about the city’s justice system, the consequences of being unheard, and how government and society can better support teens in trouble.

“My childhood revolved around disappointment. Disappointment that my mother was dead, and that anytime I asked my father for anything the answer was, ‘I don’t have it’ — not even a subway card. I stole because I wanted things, but also because I was angry.”
Marlo, the young man who wrote these words, was arrested three times and served four months at Rikers Island. Unfortunately, his story is not unique. On any given day in 2012, roughly 1,000 teens in New York City were behind bars. Almost 800 of them were 16 to 18-year-olds in the adult prison system. What had they been through? How did they get there? How can we help these kids do better?

The production of Listen v. Lock-Up: Unheard Stories from Teens in Trouble is adapted and directed by Francisco Solorzano, artistic director of The Barefoot Theatre Company.

* * *
YOUTH COMMUNICATION was founded in 1980, by MacArthur “genius” grantee Keith Hefner. Its mission is to help marginalized youth strengthen the social, emotional, and literacy skills they need to succeed in school, work, and life. Youth Communication publishes high-quality, teen-written stories that facilitate engagement and learning.
# # #
EVENT DETAILS
Name: Listen v. Lock-Up: Unheard Stories From Teens in Trouble
Date: Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Time: 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Location: Morgan Stanley, 1585 Broadway (at 47th Street), New York, NY 10036To purchase tickets: visit www.youthcomm.org or contact Sandra Toussaint-Burgher, Development Director at (212) 279-0708 ext. 114 or SToussaint@youthcomm.org

 

2014 UPDATE: THIS OPPORTUNITY HAS PASSED

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Dine Out for a Cause: Bread & Life’s “Feed the Need”

24 Oct

2014 UPDATE: THIS OPPORTUNITY HAS PASSED

Feed the Need: Dine Out for Bread and Life! is a dine out event that will take place on Thursday, October 24, 2013.  The event will benefit St. John’s Bread and Life, Brooklyn’s largest provider of emergency food.  100% of the funds raised will be used to purchase food for our hungry neighbors! This also happens to be National Food Day, a nationwide celebration and a movement for healthy, affordable, and sustainable food.

1 in 5 adult New Yorkers – and 1 in 4 children — relies on food pantries and soup kitchens to meet their food needs. To respond to this need, Bread and Life needs the help of the entire food community.   Bread and Life serves more than 1,000,000 meals annually to our Brooklyn and Queens neighbors who would otherwise go hungry. We are asking restaurants, food purveyors, patrons and the entire food community to join us in combatting hunger in our neighborhoods! 

Be part of the solution and support a great local cause!

 

Participating Restaurants:

                  

    

    

 

 

About Bread and Life: Bread & Life is a 501c3 organization whose mission it is to feed those most vulnerable. This program began 31 years ago in direct response to the cuts in the federal budget for food aid, cuts which forced tens of thousands of New Yorkers to find a new way of providing meals for their families. Before these cuts, there were just sixteen emergency food agencies in New York City. After the cuts they mushroomed to more than 1,600.

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 4 of the SNAP Challenge

21 Jun

Well, beans, we had a good run together. You fulfilled my carnivorous urges for 4 days, but your time is through. After tomorrow I’ll be left with a few eggs, some pasta, a solid number of PB&J sandwiches, and a drawer full of produce.

Nothing exciting to report today. Instead, I’d like to share what two other SNAP Challenge participants have been up to. One inspiring, one laughable. The contrast between the two, which I found almost simultaneously, is mind-boggling.

From Chef Madison Cowan's Facebook Page: "Southern fried chicken, sweet potato mash & cucumber/tomato salad. Trader Joe's Brooklyn offered 5 free range drumsticks for $2 & after searching a bit I was able to find a packet of 6! 2 leftover sweet potatoes at $0.49 each, $1.49 for a large English cucumber & $2.45 for a packet of 6 organic tomatoes on the vine (I used 2.)"

From Chef Madison Cowan’s Facebook Page: “Southern fried chicken, sweet potato mash & cucumber/tomato salad. Trader Joe’s Brooklyn offered 5 free range drumsticks for $2 & after searching a bit I was able to find a packet of 6! 2 leftover sweet potatoes at $0.49 each, $1.49 for a large English cucumber & $2.45 for a packet of 6 organic tomatoes on the vine (I used 2.)”

First, I came across the twitter feed for Chef Madison Cowan from Iron Chef America and Chopped. He and his family participated in the SNAP Challenge; the average amount given to 2 adults and 1 child is $94.50. The food he churned out of his kitchen on that budget was astounding. Fried chicken. Blueberry pancakes. Sweet potato and chorizo hash. Everything I found on his Facebook page made me slap my forehead and say “Why didn’t I think of that?” I quickly realized that I didn’t think of any of those things because I’m not a trained chef with years of experience in a professional kitchen. So the conclusion: it’s not impossible to make nutritious, delicious meals with a limited budget. Again it makes me think about what kind of support SNAP participants are given when it comes to healthy cooking and picking the right items when they go shopping. Or maybe I just don’t know because this isn’t the way I typically think about food shopping. Finding out what sort of programs are available has become my weekend assignment (though I’d love to hear some people chime in in the comments section). I applaud Chef Cowan and hope that he publishes some sort of budget recipe and shopping guide.

Shortly after closing out of Chef Cowan’s page, I stumbled across NYC Comptroller John Liu’s twitter feed, where he posted a photo of himself eating beans straight out of the can. Really? Also, you happened to have a can opener in the back of your limo? I tried not to judge, as he was further along in the challenge than me and god only knows what I’ll be eating by Sunday night, but come on. Beans out of the can? It felt exploitative and I was offended, but I shrugged it off.

John Liu doesn't have time for bowls.

J Liu doesn’t have time for bowls.

BUT THEN I SAW HIS NEXT LUNCH:

Stacks on stacks on stacks like a boss.

Stacks on stacks on stacks like a boss.

Really? Half a loaf of bread? You really ate that? You are in charge of this city’s finances and you couldn’t manage to make $31.50 work for week? It’s troublesome. Moreover, it’s a mockery of the Challenge itself and draws attention away from the issue at hand by creating a backlash of hilarious but disappointing coverage.

The official SNAP Challenge ended yesterday for most (if not all) participants, and today the Farm Bill was REJECTED in Congress. I’ll consider the last 3 days of my SNAP Challenge a victory lap for everyone that helped raise awareness for the bill, and spend some time tomorrow recapping what went down on the House floor…

For now, it’s a late-night peanut butter snack for me and then off to bed.

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