Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Potential for severe harm from House budget for the most vulnerable and voiceless

            Given how raucous the 2016 presidential campaign has been so far it’s easy to take one’s eye off the ball.  But if you pay attention to what’s going on inside the nation’ capital, it’s arguably a lot more extreme than anything any of the candidates who aspire to govern here have proposed.

            According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the House budget takes 62% of its cuts, “an unprecedented amount” from programs for low and moderate income families and individuals.  SNAP (food stamps) would be cut by $125 billion between 2021 and 2016 ending food assistance for millions of low income families.  It’s budget proposal inconsistent with the House leadership’s pledge to make poverty reduction a priority.  And with the need for food assistance remaining at near record levels, it would make childhood hunger even worse, as well as its negative consequences for the health, education and economic competitiveness of our next generation.

Lest you think the extremists are principally those running for office, many of them are already in office. The damage their policies would do to the most vulnerable and voiceless is severe. They are an easy target because they are children, elderly, or too poor to make PAC contributions or hire lobbyists on their own behalf.

This gets insufficient attention in the mainstream media so easily distracted by candidates slinging mud, (not only at each other but at each other’s wives). That’s all the more reason why nonprofits, philanthropists and advocacy organizations who fight for those so unrepresented must make their voices heard in our national conversation about the future of the nation.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Nonprofit sector must compensate for candidate and media failure to make child poverty an issue

           In the midst of extensive handwringing on the part of the mainstream media about their complicity in the rise of Donald Trump, NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff had one of the more thoughtful pieces yesterday acknowledging how out of touch the media is with the pain of working class Americans. http://tinyurl.com/h5aodbt

            He wrote: “We failed to take Trump seriously because of a third media failing: We were largely oblivious to the pain among working-class Americans and thus didn’t appreciate how much his message resonated. ‘The media has been out of touch with these Americans,’ (former Today anchor Ann) Curry notes. Media elites rightly talk about our insufficient racial, ethnic and gender diversity, but we also lack economic diversity. We inhabit a middle-class world and don’t adequately cover the part of America that is struggling and seething. We spend too much time talking to senators, not enough to the jobless.”

            If the media are out of touch with working class Americans, just imagine how much farther out of touch they are with the poorest of the poor, now a sizeable number in our country those who are most vulnerable and voiceless. 11% of American children are living in deep poverty.  45 million Americans have been stuck below the poverty line for three years in a row.  51% of our public school students now live in poverty.   Neither the press not the candidates give voice to these issues with any consistency, if at all.  Why? Probably for the same honest reason that Kristof gives for such excessive coverage of Trump. Ratings. Follow the dollar.

            One again we see how those who are the most economically and politically marginalized have no markets to serve them, whether economic, political or media markets. This places even more of an obligation on nonprofits, advocates and philanthropy to do what is most important for them to do: be the voice for those whose voices are not being heard but desperately need to be. Many of them are children; they represent and will shape our collective future.  We need to compensate for the failure of the candidates and the media to make child poverty the issue it should be.

As the author James Baldwin so eloquently wrote:  “Remember, they are all our children and we shall either pay for or profit by whatever they become.”

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

"A Child Who Is Hungry Cannot Be Hungry For Knowledge"

     “A child who is hungry cannot be hungry for knowledge”, said Virginia’s First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe to open Share Our Strength’s board of director’s meeting yesterday.  She spoke of “proof of how school breakfast is improving academic performance”, asserted that “food is as important as books, laptops and teachers”, and said “we intend to eliminate childhood hunger in Virginia, there’s just no other way to say it.”

            It was an inspiring start to a board meeting that reaffirmed our commitment to achieving our ambitious No Kid Hungry goals.  First Lady McAuliffe described the incredible commitment that the Governor’s office has made and they capacity they’ve built and most important of all, the results: more than 20,000 additional students receiving breakfast over the previous year.

            “This is an economic issue,” concluded the First Lady, “Creating a workforce pipeline means we must have children who are well educated. And a good education  system attracts businesses to our state.” 

            The Republican controlled state legislature agreed with her, doubling the amount of state funding available, to $2 million, to enact breakfast-after-the-bell alternatives so that all kids start their school day with a healthy meal. See @ http://www.nbc29.com/story/31539830/lawmakers-approve-increased-funding-for-va-school-nutrition-programs

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Gambling That We Can End Childhood Hunger in Las Vegas

            In the casinos of Las Vegas, there’s much to gawk at and reminders everywhere that you are being watched closely as well.  Every casino has “eye-in-the-sky” technology, more per square foot than anywhere in the U.S.  Plastic black globes making it difficult to tell which way the camera is pointing are ubiquitous. They watch every table, change window, guest, and casino employees. Reconnaissance teams monitor video screens for guest safety and to identify card counters, loaded dice, hands under the table. What’s most precious to the owners - every single dollar and chip – is never for a moment out of sight. The entire system depends on the “eye-in-the-sky.”

            Off the Strip, Las Vegas looks different. Instead of resort buffets that feed 5000 a day, children in classrooms wait for their yogurt and granola breakfast, and are often still there 10 hours later for the chicken sandwich and grapes “after school snack” that is their only dinner.

            We visited a Boys and Girls Club, afterschool meal program at an elementary school, and a breakfast in the classroom program for middle school students.  The children were quick to tell Mary Sue Milliken about their favorite foods and show Jill Davis their favorite toys. A principal told us of how much better the kids are doing since they moved to breakfast after the bell. School Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky, insisted “the only way to create economic opportunity for low income kids is through education, and the only way to educate them is to make sure their basic needs are met.”

In Nevada only 47% of the kids who get school lunch are getting school breakfast. Governor Brian Sandoval and First Lady Kathleen Sandoval fought for and enacted legislation that will change that by mandating breakfast after the bell for school districts with high percentages of low-income kids. The Clark County school district is the 5th largest in the U.S. so we can’t end childhood hunger in America without ending it here. We have the necessary ingredients: a culinary destination with chef /restaurant partners, a champion in First Lady Kathleen Sandoval and the Governor, a capable partner in the Three Square Food Bank. 

Unlike casino guests, these kids, are all but invisible. Some are homeless. Too many grow-up in violent surroundings. Many of the school children are born here and are citizens but their parents are not which makes for constant challenges.  For these kids we are their “eye-in-the-sky”.  It is our vigilance that keeps them safe.  We must be the ones to intervene when something goes wrong for them. We must be the ones who say we won’t let them out of our sight because there is nothing more precious.

Monday, March 7, 2016

The Sound of Community Being Built

“Wanted to invite anyone in the LA area for another training ride next week. We will be starting from M Street and headed up PCH for 25 miles and back. Hope you can come join us.” (Lincoln Fuge, chef, Lettuce Entertain You)

“Anyone down for a Wednesday or Thursday PCH ride 60 -70 miles   Around 9 am????” (Ryan Osasky, Chef, Church Key)

“Bad news – I got on my bike and it wrecked my back. That being said, is there a different way I can support the race? Are people cooking along the way?” (Amanda Haas, Williams-Sonoma Director of Culinary)

“For those of you that are interested: All levels welcome: I have 5 riders already confirmed. Sunday February 28, 2016   Meet time 6:30am  Roll time 7am”  (Chef Travis Flood)

“6:30am?!  Don't any of you work in a kitchen until 1 am Saturday night?!”(Chef Ryan Osasky)

Dear Share Our Strength and Community Wealth Partners colleagues:

These are just a fraction of the emails being exchanged among dozens of chef riders for Chefs Cycle 2016. These are the sounds of a community being built. And this is how sharing strength creates community.

Last June, 25 riders signed up to for the California ride, in addition to the 25 who rode from New York to DC on the east coast.  As of this morning 106 have signed up to ride Chefs Cycle 2016. It is only the beginning of March. We will achieve the goal of 200 riders and $1 million in new revenue for the No Kid Hungry campaign. Not just because we are recruiting riders, but because they are recruiting each other.

Chefs Cycle has gone viral in the true sense of the word.  It is coursing through the bloodstream of the culinary community and tapping into that deep desire to make a difference, to leverage one’s own strengths, gifts, talents, and passions to serve others. 

Dan Pallotta, inventor of the AIDS rides always asserts that people want to be challenged to do something not easy but hard.  In a world of one-clicks, “likes”, “shares”, etc. , Chefs Cycle is a heavier lift. And that’s its appeal.

The ride route also mirrors our roadmap to ending childhood hunger. Chefs Cycle is not something you can do on your own. At least not easily. You have to embrace being part of something larger than yourself. You have to depend on others to train and find your way and they have to be able to depend on you. You have to stick with a plan but also make constant course corrections to it.

Riding 300 miles in 3 days, and the months of training that precede it, may sound like a test of endurance.  But listen closely and what you will hear are the sounds from the construction site where community is being built.

For more information and to support our ride:  http://p2p.charityengine.net/supportachef/