Friday, July 14, 2017

Cute Food!

Summer is the season for patty pan, zucchini, yellow crook neck and other tasty summer squash. Gardeners often have an abundance of these beauties to share with friends and neighbors, and our pantry produce section is bursting with a variety of summer squash. Kids Cook participants had the chance to try a fun way of preparing patty pan squash this week. Patty pan has a similar texture and flavor to zucchini, but its squat and rounded shape makes it ideal for stuffing.

We prepared a savory rice filling and parboiled the squash beforehand, then the kids hollowed out the squash with a spoon. After filling with the rice mixture, and placing the "caps" on top, they go in the oven for 20 minutes or so, until piping hot. The kids enjoyed the rice in its own edible bowl, and you can too! Check out the recipe the recipe and try it tonight!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Make your own sandwich bread!

Looking for a fast, easy meal to put together?  Versatile and classic, sandwiches are a quick and cost-effective way to put together a meal during the week. 
Baking your own bread at home for sandwiches has a lot of benefits! Commercially prepared breads often have higher levels of sodium compared to home-baked breads and have lower levels of vitamins and minerals due to a production process that strips the bread of some of its nutrients. They also include various preservatives and artificial ingredients. When baking your own bread, you can avoid preservatives, high sodium, cross-contamination, and insure you get all of the nutrients. Baking your own bread is also super cost-effective when compared to buying from the store!

Kayte Young, Nutrition Coordinator
When choosing a sandwich bread, whole wheat is a nutritious and delicious selection. Most individuals need between 6-8 oz of whole grain a day (3-5 oz for children 8 years and younger). Whole wheat is an example of a recommended whole grain as opposed to refined grains, such as refined breads and white rice. 
Whole wheat also has more fiber than most breads, which will keep you feeling full for a longer period of time in between meals!

You can try the recipe we used in our sandwich bread workshop. You might like it so much you'll want to work it into your weekly routine. 

Finished products from The Hub's winter breadbaking workshop

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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Lunch Shaming Call to Action: School Board Meeting Follow Up

As many of you have been following, last night was the School Board meeting addressing the school lunch debt or “lunch shaming” policy.  An impressive number of parents, students, organizations, and city commissions attended and made statements. We were proud to have representatives from Hub staff, CEO Amanda Nickey and Nutrition Coordinator Kayte Young and from the Hub Advocacy Working Group, Thomas Vanderplough and Celestina Garcia.  In many ways, Celestina sent the most powerful rallying cry for the policy to be changed, you can hear her statement by clicking the link below.

There was so much news coverage of last’s night’s School Board Meeting, we decided to compile it for you here:

Kayte Young will be speaking about the issue on this Friday June 30th’s WFIU Noon Edition.  

Next Steps for concerned citizens:
  • Dr. DeMuth will be reworking the policy to present at the July board meeting.  Contact Dr. DeMuth here or find information for district leadership here and share your ideas for a new policy. Read more here: Superintendent welcomes input on MCCSC meal debt policy
  • Share your concerns with the public by writing a letter to the editor.
  • Attend the next School Board meeting to hear about the new policy being proposed.  Details: Tuesday, July 25th at 6pm at the MCCSC Administration Building at 315 E. North Drive, Bloomington, IN 47401

As mentioned in the meeting, there is bipartisan federal legislation, the Anti-Lunch Shaming Act of 2017, addressing the issue of lunch shaming. Feeding America has a petition you can sign to urge congress to support this legislation.

The Hub is so proud to working with those in our community who believe that all should have access to food in a manner that upholds the dignity of all involved.  If you would like to join the Hub’s Advocacy Working Group, contact Stephanie Solomon.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Lunch Shaming Call to Action

We believe a follow-up is in order from our Lunch Shaming Call to Action meeting on Wednesday.

As some of you know the meeting was attended by Superintendent Dr. DeMuth and Board President Martha Street. Their presence was unexpected but provided some insight into the rationale for the policy. More on the meeting can be found in this coverage from WFIU.

In the course of the meeting it became clear that the act of shaming the child is the most contentious part of this policy. District officials communicated that the policy was effective and they didn’t see the acts as shaming.

Our group concluded that we would like to request the board do the following:
  • Stop the act of taking away lunches and replacing them with cold lunches when children have debt.
  • Create policy that doesn’t stigmatize children.
  • Create a district policy detailing the steps taken to ensure families are connected with the free and reduced lunch applications throughout the year.
  • Create a policy that states the collection of debt is only directed at parents or guardians
  • Establish a community fund/money in the community fund to be used to ensure that all children have the lunch they choose (the current fund does not seem to prevent lunch from being taken from children. It appears it pays back past debt).

Many of these policy suggestions come from Food Research Action Center. These recommendations were shared with the full board and Dr. Demuth in previous communications.

Next Steps for concerned citizens:
  • Attend the School Board meeting Tuesday, June 27th at 6pm at the MCCSC Administration Building at 315 E. North Drive, Bloomington, IN 47401
    • Provide public comment. To make a public comment arrive a few minutes early and complete a comment card.  Your name will be called when it is your turn to speak.
  • You can also weigh in on the issue by contacting district leadership here.  
  • Share your concerns with the public by writing a letter to the editor.

There is bipartisan federal legislation, the Anti-Lunch Shaming Act of 2017, addressing the issue of lunch shaming. The School Board and Dr. DeMuth seemed unaware of this legislation. Feeding America has a petition you can sign to urge congress to support this legislation.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Our Thoughts on Local 'Lunch Shaming'

Post submitted by Amanda Nickey, MHC President and CEO

As the director of one of the largest direct emergency food service providers in the region, I am deeply concerned by the MCCSC policy regarding unpaid school food bills and believe it does not reflect the caring community I know Bloomington to be.

Dr. DeMuth believes the policy works well because students aren’t denied food, and what she calls the “swapping out of the meals” – when the child is forced to hand over the meal they’ve selected and have it thrown it away, in return for a cheese or peanut butter sandwich, fruit, and milk- is handled delicately and is hardly noticeable by others, besides the recipient child.

The above is most disturbing to me because it seems to imply that the only concern is whether others notice the child receiving the alternate meal, not what it must feel like to be the child receiving the alternate meal. This leads me to believe that Dr. DeMuth and the board are ok with the child knowing he or she is being punished for the unpaid bill.

In my correspondence with Dr. DeMuth and the School Board I offered information about the extent to which hunger impacts our community, sharing that 1 in 5, or close to 5,000 kids in our community face hunger and that close to a third of families experiencing food insecurity aren’t eligible for SNAP and other assistance programs.

Punishing children for decisions outside of their control creates even more stress for families on the edge. Many families in our community are already making difficult financial decisions between paying bills, the rent, or buying food. And while it is not a social issue the schools have an obligation or the resources to solve, it is one they can choose to not make worse.

To force a child to throw away a hot lunch and take a cold one, regardless of the nutritional value or who sees it, is cruel. It communicates to the child that they are undeserving of being treated with dignity and respect.

It is clear that the collection of the debt is a very important issue for Dr. DeMuth and the board. The statement by Dr. DeMuth that the policy works well for the district seems to imply that making children give back and throw away the food they’ve already selected in exchange for a different meal, is effective in getting parents to pay the debt. 

Regardless of whether this tactic achieves the goal, I have to question the collective ability of the School Board and Dr. DeMuth to lead a school district reflective of our community values if their best method is to actively harm children to make parents pay the bill. Making a child take an alternate lunch, throwing away food they have already selected, and addressing debt collection through the child in the first place, are cruel and abusive tactics and have no place in our schools. I find it unbelievable that given what we know about child development, bullying behaviors, the connection between poverty, shame, and food insecurity, that our school board would choose to continue this practice and make it an official policy of the district.

Simply removing the child from the equation is the best and most reasonable solution. I have shared a resource guide with Dr. DeMuth and the School Board from the Food Research and Action Center on crafting a policy that doesn’t harm children and ensures that families get connected with valuable programs like reduced cost and free lunch. I urge them to review the guide and create a policy better reflective of our community values.

Friday, May 5, 2017

The Session is Over!

Understanding the Indiana General Assembly’s legislative process is daunting, but we from the Hub’s Advocacy team worked harder than ever to get educated and engage in the political process.  With the help of the League of Women Voters, Feeding Indiana’s Hungry, and the Indiana Institute for Working Families, we learned a lot about how bills are drafted, introduced to a committee, and ultimately passed.  A resource that helped us along is the Indiana Chamber’s How a Bill Becomes a Law: A Description of the Indiana Legislative Process with a Glossary of Terms.  

Before we get into the details, let us tell you what we learned about bill tracking.  This is the process of watching a specific bill as it goes through first reading, into committee action, onto additional readings, into conference, and hopefully signed.  This can be a tedious process, as there was no exact way to know when an action was being taken on a bill besides constantly refreshing the website.  An excellent new tool for us was Ping the People, a website that allows users to get email notification about the bills they are tracking.

A major focus of this long session was to pass the biennial budget.  In addition to that, legislative priorities were placed on infrastructure, education, and opioid addiction prevention.  The Hub tracked the following bills that were focused on the nutritional safety net: SB 9: Supplemental nutrition assistance program and drug convictions, SB 154 Asset limitation for SNAP eligibility, and SB 277 Healthy food initiative program.

Senate Bill 9 would have allowed individuals formerly convicted of a drug related crime to apply for and receive SNAP benefits. The Hub supported this bill because increasing access to public assistance lowers the recidivism rate, and will reduce the number of people in Indiana facing poverty and food insecurity. The bill was voted out of the Senate but then died in the House which means it did not get voted on and cannot be enacted.  Legislators claimed they would rather focus on “treatment and prevention of the opioid crisis”.  We are hopeful that lawmakers will see the connection between a stronger safety net and lasting prevention and that this bill may be proposed in the future.

Senate Bill 154 was introduced to eliminate SNAP asset limits.  Assets are things like retirement accounts, savings and checking accounts, vehicles, and other personal property.  Currently, if someone has more than $2,500 in value in any of these things, they are ineligible for SNAP.  Asset limits force folks to make the hard choice of having assets or receiving assistance.  The current rule creates impossible decisions that only reinforce cycles of poverty and food insecurity.  As introduced in the Senate the bill would have removed the asset limit altogether.  In its next version it moved the asset limit to $10,000.  Unfortunately, the bill was amended in the House to move the asset limit to $5,000.  It does exempt Certificate of Deposits and prepaid funeral expenses.  Individuals must prove their assets.  This bill passed out of the House with votes 97-0, so it was great to see complete support of Hoosiers in need. In the end, even if SB 154 only slightly raises the asset limit, its passage is a step toward cutting some red tape for the most financially vulnerable Hoosiers and continues the conversation of how we address hunger and poverty at the state level.  

Senate Bill 277 was the healthy food initiative program, which would have established a a fund to provide fresh and unprocessed food in underserved areas. This bill died in the House in early March.  Supporters of the bill say they will propose this bill in the future with the goal of attaching money to it to support increased access to healthy food.

The Hub’s wins from this legislative session are that more people will be able to access food because of increased asset limits.  Amanda Nickey, the Hub’s President and CEO and Stephanie Solomon, Director of Education and Outreach were able to testify at the statehouse for the first time and we have widely expanded our advocacy network around the state.  We also launched our Advocacy Working Group which has met once a month and addresses food security, health care, and housing from the perspective of Hub patrons.  

We learned some important lessons this session.  Overall, we were disappointed at the lack of political will to advocate for the basic, everyday needs of people who live in Indiana.  We do not want to lower our expectations of elected officials and instead resolve to advocating the needs of real people and communicating that food is a basic human right.  In the future, we hope to host an elected official for a visit at Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard, continue growing our Advocacy Working Group, and increasing the knowledge and engagement of the Hub community.  

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Debate Surrounding SNAP Choice

There has been quite lot of talk recently about what SNAP beneficiaries choose to buy with their benefits. The conversation has particularly focused on condemning the purchase of items like soda and sweetened drinks. There is no question that the article - which reignited this debate over whether or not SNAP beneficiaries should be able to buy what they want - manipulated and misrepresented data in order to perpetuate an unfavorable narrative. As a result, many organizations fired back in an attempt to set the record straight, arguing that the findings of the USDA report actually conclude that “SNAP recipients and other households generally make the same purchases.”

It is important that we are aware of these attempts to delegitimize a program that helps keep millions of Americans from going hungry. The debates over SNAP purchases represent the paternalistic nature of our safety net system, and it shifts the public discussion from open access to strict oversight. We cannot support those aiming to escape poverty by dictating what they can and cannot do, and in a society that values free choice that includes allowing people to choose what they want to buy.

SNAP is often one of the most vilified public programs in the country, and this misrepresentation of data is becoming more common with regard to this program. In January of 2017, a report began circulating that claimed $70 million of SNAP money has been fraudulently spent. Even if we accept this premise - which many observers refuse to do, as the article cited a USDA report that apparently does not exist - opponents of SNAP fail to acknowledge that this is a $71 billion program, and with a fraudulent spending rate of 0.09% SNAP would actually be one of the most effective federal programs in existence today. But the numbers resonate, and that is what SNAP critics want. Opponents depend on these misrepresentations to further reinforce the stigmas that haunt people who apply to receive assistance; it legitimizes the “us and them” narrative that opponents rely on to justify draconian cuts to safety net programs.

The problem is that this is not a situation where we should be emphasizing “us and them.” Even if the claims of the article were true why is the first thought that this is an example of SNAP beneficiaries gaming the system? Why is this proof that individuals and families receiving SNAP cannot be trusted to make decisions for themselves? The question we should be asking is why aren’t we subsidizing healthy food options on top of providing SNAP benefits? Why are we okay with the fact that a bag of chips costs half as much as a bag of vegetables? And why are we criticizing people who are making the economical decision to budget their spending based solely on costs? Policy and political rhetoric revolve around the economics of decision-making - that smart individuals will take advantage of the market as it currently exists. Successful business people are often seen as those who cut the deal to get the most at the cheapest cost to themselves. How is that any different than what SNAP users have to do when purchasing food? Why do we judge SNAP beneficiaries on a different scale than we do businessmen?

Part of the mission of the Hub is providing food in a dignified manner; being told what you can and cannot eat is a demoralizing and undignified experience, and it contributes to the persistence of cycles of poverty and food insecurity. We want people to care about the quality of the food they eat, but that should not be done by telling people what to buy - it should be done by making quality foods the economical choice. In a perfect America, we would subsidize healthier options instead of dictating what SNAP beneficiaries can buy, but it is clear that our current environment will make this a difficult goal to achieve. We must be wary of attempts to isolate or differentiate those who find themselves in need of public assistance. The ramifications of legislating our idea of what it means to live in poverty and what people living in poverty should look like would spread well beyond a further entrenchment of the preconceived notions that plague SNAP beneficiaries. If we perpetuate the mentality that there is a specific mold that people living in poverty need to fit, that there is some other way that we can differentiate them from us to make them feel like less than a person, then we have failed as a society.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Moving Towards a More Just Food System: our trip to Detroit

Nothing big happens without advocacy, nothing happens without someone pushing it forward.
--Winona Bynum, RDP PMP  Executive Director, Detroit Food Policy Council

MHC's Stephanie Solomon and Hannah Lenchek
show off their stripes at the Detroit Food Summit
The Hub has been working with Why.Hunger to build a network of organizations across the Midwest who are moving towards a food justice model in their work. We had our first gathering in Chicago, in September of 2016.  We met again in mid March, this time in Detroit. The network is made up of emergency food providers (food pantries), food resource centers, food policy councils and those working with urban farming and community gardens.  The gatherings are a chance to share concerns, resources and ideas around food justice, with a focus on the challenges and opportunities specific to the Midwest region.
We organized this trip in conjunction with the Detroit Food Summit, hosted by the Detroit Food Policy Council. In addition to connecting with like minded organizations across the Midwest, we had the chance to take a food tour of innovative food programs in the Detroit area, and hear from community leaders in the Detroit area about their work in areas such as the Office of School Nutrition in the Detroit Public Schools, or The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program.
We connected as a coalition to explore the dominant narratives around food pantries and emergency food provision, and to begin to draft a new narrative based in principles of social justice. We explored topics such as the difference between equity and equality, what it might look like to move away from a charitable model, and how to envision and support just, sustainable food systems in our communities.

Mark Covington founder of the Georgia Street Community Collective
(photo from the GSCC website)

Georgia Street Community Collective 
Our Detroit food tour took us to the Georgia Street Community Collective. Mark Covington shared the story of returning to his neighborhood after some time away, to find abandoned lots filled with garbage, and neighbors filled with despair. He started by rounding up folks in the neighborhood to clean up some of the lots. Then some folks expressed interest in growing fresh food, something they had little access to in their part of town. Mark and a group of kids and teens in the surrounding houses started gardening in one of the lots. As their website notes, “..Mark began to think in bigger terms...terms like revitalization of the neighborhood, helping the youth of the neighborhood, bringing business to the area, and more…” Now the Georgia Street Community Collective is home to several thriving community gardens, an orchard, beehives, a happy flock of chickens and even a few rambunctious goats. The community center hosts a computer lab, winter jacket give-aways, a program for school supplies and more. The collective organizes Easter egg hunts, harvest festivals and other community gatherings. It’s so inspiring to see such a comprehensive approach, built from the ground up, by the community, for the community!
Mark Wimberly of the Friends Potato Chip Co.
We visited the Friends Potato Chip Co., and heard the story of Mark Wimberly’s vision for his neighborhood. He started by telling us, “We wanted to renew our relationship with the earth, renew our relationship with the community, and renew our relationship with the economy.” So they cleaned up a neighborhood lot and started growing food. Potatoes did well, thus, a potato chip company! Of course, it wasn’t so straightforward. “We Persevered” Mike confessed, “but not without a lot of gnashing of teeth!”  After multiple attempts, their line of delicious, natural chips ended up on Oprah’s Favorite Things list for 2016. Now this innovative social enterprise works hard to keep up with demand. Check out their website to learn more about all the wonderful things going on in their community.
Some of the fresh winter offerings at The Farmer's Hand
The Farmer’s Hand greeted us with delicious samples of locally grown and prepared foods, including a dark chocolate, to-die-for toffee. The Farmer’s Hand is a woman-owned artisanal market, café and kitchen specializing in all-local, Michigan-made food, drinks and gifts. We toured their gorgeous shop, and the site of the future restaurant and heard the founding story from Kiki Louya.
Much of the rest of our visit involved participation in the Detroit Food Summit. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Detroit seems to be leading the way in the Midwest towards more sustainable food systems. It is encouraging to see community members taking the lead in making changes that impact their own neighborhoods.

We learned about efforts to change the culture of school food, from Monica DeGarmo from the Office of School Nutrition (OSN). Under the leadership of Betti Wiggins, the OSN has transformed the nutritional standards in Detroit Public schools, doing away with what she calls “carnival food” (hot dogs, corn dogs, fried food) and has increased the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables, including locally sourced produce, and food from their Garden to Cafeteria Program! Bloomington Indiana has a lot to learn from Detroit, when it comes to food in our public schools!

Ben Hall of Russell Street Deli
One of the break-out sessions, Food not Fear, addressed threats to undocumented workers in the food industry. The panel included Ben Hall from Russell Street Deli, a Sanctuary Restaurant in Detroit’s Eastern Market, and other community activists working to protect vulnerable communities from recent immigration crackdowns.

Shane Bernardo sharing a useful organizing tool called Power Mapping
Shane Bernardo walked us through an introduction to Power Mapping, a useful tool for those working in advocacy and social justice. Shane is part of our Midwest Regional network, and we hope to have him visit The Hub for a more complete training in the near future.

The Hub’s own Stephanie Solomon Joined Suzanne Babb of Why.Hunger, Kathy Kelly-Long of the Broad Street Food Pantry, and Emma Garcia of Access of West Michigan in a panel discussion called Moving from Food Charity to Food Justice in the Midwest.
Stephanie Solomon, Emma Garcia, Kathy Kelly-Long and Suzanne Babb, in their
panel discussion Moving from Food Charity to Food Justice in the Midwest

"We put love and energy into every pot and create 
something magnificent." Bianca Danzy 
The women of A Taste of African Heritage put together a delicious lunch on the final day of the summit. Chef Bee (Sisters on a Roll) and Bianca Danzy (Real Food by Bianca) served up some beautifully seasoned collards, one of the many dishes they learned to prepare together in the cooking course focussed on healthy eating through connection to the African diaspora.
Shared dinners and a closing session with the regional network allowed for formal and informal relationship building with folks across the midwest looking to make positive change in our region’s food provision systems. By the end of this exciting and jam-packed week, we left feeling like we had only scratched the surface of the topics we approached, and looked forward to expanding the conversation and deepening the relationships.

We'll have a chance to meet up next in Tacoma, Washington for the Closing the Hunger Gap Conference in September.