Sunday, September 22, 2013

Taking the SNAP Challenge, Family Style, in Bismarck
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          So what did we eat during the five days of our SNAP Challenge? We had spaghetti with sauce: no meat, no added vegetables like we usually add.  We cooked up one pound of pinto beans to yield 6 cups of cooked beans to eat as refried beans, burritos and minestrone soup with some leftover spaghetti. We ate eggs, cooked up as omelets with a few veggies and a few
sprinkles of cheese on top. Cereal with milk. Peanut butter helped us stick together.

We had purchased fruit a couple of days prior to the Challenge, and we worked that purchase of 4 apples and 4 pears into our budget. Our hearts sank when we cut into one pear and found half of it bad, leaving less to eat at supper, no money left to go back to the store to purchase more. My husband return the pear to the grocery store and they gave us double our money back. Because we weren't working that evening, have a reliable car, and live just under a mile from the store, we could do this. Not the case for many others relying on SNAP benefits. Consider, if you will, some of our state’s senior citizens who live in small towns without grocery stores who may not be able to drive 30 or 50 miles to the nearest grocery store if this happened to them.

We used $8.00 of our budget to shop at the Farmers Market for melon, zucchini and one large onion, as SNAP benefits are accepted at a few farmers markets in the state. We added flavor from basil growing in a pot outside. Emily snacked on cherry tomatoes from a plant in our yard for an after-school snack. A little-known option of the SNAP program is that a person can use their benefits to purchase seeds or seedlings. If a family can find the means to set aside some of their benefits in the spring, there can be a great return on that investment at this time of year.

How do people who receive SNAP benefits learn about these aspects of the program and how to make the most out of a limited food budget?  NDSU Extension operates the SNAP Education (SNAP –Ed) Program across the state, which goes by the name the Family Nutrition Program. Their educators lead grocery store tours, teach nutrition education to kids in school and the community, and work with kids in gardens, helping them grow (in more ways than one.) My colleague’s family received SNAP benefits more than 20 years ago, and she still remembers her SNAP-Ed lessons and keeps a well-stocked pantry to this day. The tools of SNAP-Ed can stay with people a lifetime; the average length of stay on SNAP is 9 months. SNAP-Ed tools and tips are useful and available to anyone online: http://snap.nal.usda.gov/resource-library/click-n-go-education-materials

            It was really helpful to be able to use "pooled resources" as a family. When I've read the experiences of others taking this Challenge, they have been single, and had to put resources toward items in amounts as packaged, which often doesn’t support buying a variety of foods. That pound of dry beans, which cooked up to 6 cups of cooked beans, can get monotonous for one person over a week. One of our compromises was a commercial bread that was much cheaper and has 24 slices (compared to the more expensive and higher nutrition quality bread we usually purchase).  In the middle of the week at lunch I had a peanut butter sandwich with just one slice of bread, as I wanted to be sure there would be enough to last. We made the bread stretch to the last day, but that lunch did not stretch to last me well to dinnertime.

Although I didn’t experience a great deal of hunger pangs, what I did feel is complicated by a minor health issue. I have some mild acid reflux that I manage that by eating small meals or snacks every few hours. But this week I didn’t have the food resources to do that; I had to stick to the “three square meals” pattern. The day with the small peanut butter sandwich was worse, as I ate my lunch early and was “on empty” for several hours. The feeling is like hunger pangs, but it burns more. This calls to mind over half the people in our state who are living with chronic diseases, like diabetes, heart disease or cancer. Not only can adequate nutrition prevent such diseases, it is crucial for managing them once we have them.

It hit us about how hard it could be to build a pantry on a very limited budget. How can you purchase for the future while trying to meet today's needs first? We could have blown one day's worth of resources on one jar of spices to make a delicious recipe. We would have it for some time to come, but what will we eat today if we do that?

Duane has this idea of providing a "head start" to people with few resources: staple foods like oil, grains, dry beans, etc. so they can build a better life. A well-stocked pantry is like a down-payment on a house - once it's there, a family has so many more other doors open to them, so many more options available. And speaking of a head start, Head Start Programs are also like a down payment on a better life - opening so many more doors and the chance for a better, healthier life for our children.

We did it. We pulled it together. We had a few teaspoons of peanut butter, a few sprinkles of cheese and some toasted oat cereal left. We RAN OUT of some foods.  But to anyone who says that accessing food through SNAP is “taking the easy way out,” I encourage you to try it yourself. I encourage anyone who helps others make decisions about food to buy or eat to take the Challenge. I also recommend that any elected official who makes decisions about spending on food and nutrition programs, if not ever experienced a scarcity of food in their lives, to step up to take the Challenge. It will change how you think about how people access what is necessary for all human life: food.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Taking the SNAP Challenge, Family Style, in Bismarck
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My family- my husband, teenage daughter and I- took the SNAP Challenge during Hunger Action Month, September, in order to gain a better understanding of what it’s like to live with very few resources for food. We undertook this Challenge just days before the U.S. House of Representatives voted to make $40 billion cuts to the SNAP program and split the last 50 years of eaters and farmers being linked together in the Farm Bill. We were challenged to live on the average amount that a person receiving SNAP benefits receives on average in North Dakota: $4.25 per day. Yes, you read right, the amount that some of us spend on one coffee beverage. This amount calculated out to be $63.75 for the three of us for five days.

As we got ready to start, we felt humbled and grateful for the food skills and knowledge we have already in our training to become a registered dietitian and chef. We have each other for support, reliable vehicles to get us to grocery stores and markets nearby, and a background of some scarcity and thriftiness. My husband, Duane, and his family received food stamp benefits for a time while both his parents were working full-time at low wage jobs.

If there is one thing we hope to pass along, it is to help others understand the food-related decisions many of us take for granted each day.  We have been blessed and have had the opportunity to work toward many resources like a well-stocked pantry, cooking tools, pots and pans, a great stove and refrigerator. Many in our country don't come to the table with nearly this much.

Grocery shopping takes a long time when you need to budget down to the penny. We made many comprises. We spent more than an hour planning for our purchases and shopped at least three places, fully recognizing that our choices were "small potatoes" compared to day-in, day-out really hard choices that others face when it comes to making tough choices on rent, childcare, transportation, medical expenses, etc.

My husband and I found ourselves preoccupied by thoughts of food. I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t get back to sleep, trying to figure out what we would eat for supper. Trying to make sure there will be enough food, especially for our growing daughter for the short five days of our Challenge. Each morning I’d count the slices of bread remaining, and together my husband and I would decide together how much to eat to ensure we wouldn’t run out.

            When we convinced our 15-year old daughter to join in, we did so with agreement that we would not knowingly shortchange her of food. I can't say enough about how important adequate nutrition is to the lives of children and moms. Thank goodness for school meals programs, the people who prepare them and teachers and other school team members who give out of their own pockets to make sure children don't go hungry. We didn’t count the $2.25 for each of the five days of the challenge that is a very reasonable charge by Bismarck Public Schools for lunch, as if we were eligible for SNAP our daughter would be eligible for free meals at school. If this would have been summer, however, the Challenge would have been much more challenging.

            We did run out of milk by the end of the fourth day, and I opened up the other carton that was in the fridge. But for those other parents out there who don’t have more milk in their fridges or bread in the bread box, what do they do? Eat less? Not pay a bill? Ask a neighbor? Visit a food pantry? When the home pantry is empty, and wallets are empty, then food pantries can help fill the gap.

Food pantries are playing a large role in helping to fill those very kinds of gaps. In fact here in North Dakota, one in 10 of us accessed the Great Plains Food Bank and their charitable feeding network partners in 2012, averaging 39,300 people served each month.  36% served were children; 12% were seniors. Please remember them the next time there is a food drive. Maybe these posts will help you think differently about the types of food you donate. Miss the food drive? Send cash. Sometimes that’s even better in helping the food bank access its national or regional resources.

 And food banks could become even busier come November. There were increases made to SNAP as part of the ARRA – Recovery Act - in 2009. However, those increases are scheduled to roll back as of 11/1/13. This means a $29 cut/month in benefits for a family of 3. Or about $5 in 5 days. I can’t imagine that this Challenge could get any harder, but it will if this roll back happens. We ran out of some food in 4 days on our 5-day budget.  If you want to send a message, or learn more see http://www.stopthehungerclock.org/

            SNAP is short for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The “Supplemental” means that economists have figured that at qualifying income levels, you should be able to spend about 30% of your income on food by following the “Thrifty Food Plan.” The problem is that SNAP allotments are not enough for most families to purchase an adequate, healthy diet throughout the month. It’s not just me saying this; a committee of the Institute of Medicine made this determination earlier this year http://bit.ly/169ynXE

SNAP benefits are determined off of gross income (plus a lot of other rules) based on 130 percent of the poverty line. So for a three-person family that equals out to $2,116 a month, or about $25,400 a year. In reality, when you make that small an income, the SNAP benefits may be all that is left to spend on food after childcare, rent, car, gas, lights, heat, back-to-school expenses, etc.
Karen Ehrens, RD, LRD

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Prepping and Planning in the SNAP Challenge

"Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." - Chinese Proverb

Anyone that knows me well knows that I don’t belong in the kitchen!  I grew up having my meals prepared for me and when I ventured to college the "R" Dining Center was my three buffet a day haven.  So as a young professional, I found myself choosing frozen meals and eating out as my go-to, after my cereal all day phase.  It's not my habit to plan ahead for meals or even prepare meals that don't require more than a microwave or a pizza pan.

I knew that preparing meals was going to be a challenge within the SNAP Challenge.   While shopping for the week, I intentionally purchased quick assemble food to get me out the door in the morning and easy to eat between work and community meetings.  It was the dinner meal that scared me the most.  There was only so much beans and rice I would be able to tolerate and the idea of having to spend much time in the kitchen gave me some anxiety.  What if I overcook and ruin the rice, my main dinner starch and filler?

Saturday evening I had a couple of hours between commitments and planned to make rice, beans and a vegetable for my dinner with an apple for later in the evening for something sweet.  I assumed cooking the dry beans would be similar to the rice (which I have cooked a few times in my life).  I had two options to clean the beans, the standard way which required them to soak overnight or the quick method which required me to boil them, then let stand for one to four hours.  I thought, well if they can sit for an hour, then a half-hour will be fine and still get me out the door in time for my commitment.  Have you ever bit into a quickly boiled bean?  Hard as a rock!  So my rice and beans quickly turned into buffalo chicken corned chowder. 

I thought I was pretty clever heating up a can of creamed corn and pouring it over some rice and a can of the buffalo chicken I bought (the regular canned chicken was gone due to a four cans for $5 special).  The beans proceeded to soak for a few hours to be used in another evening's meal or to take to work when I get bored of bologna and cheese sandwiches.

We all have our own form of busyness in our lives.  For many working families, multiple jobs and children's activities requires increased convenience in meal preparation.  Single people like me stick to what they know and tend to be more repetitious in their food consumption. 

An aspect of SNAP that often isn't recognized is the SNAP Ed program, which assists SNAP recipients with budget shopping, advanced meal preparation and low-budget, nutritious meals.  In North Dakota, dieticians, educators and extension agents provide classroom style programs, one-on-one consultations and community outings to educate SNAP recipients of the variety of resources available to them to make more healthy and budget-conscious decisions when shopping.  It's certainly an aspect of the program that I could have benefited from before taking on the SNAP Challenge!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

What is Hunger? Day Two for Josh Boschee's SNAP Challenge.

"When people were hungry, Jesus didn't say, "Now is that political, or social?" He said, "I feed you." Because the good news to a hungry person is bread." - Desmond Tutu

What is hunger?

It's certainly not something I have legitimately experienced.  Sure, I've forgotten to eat lunch from being hyper-focused on a work project or scheduled myself too tight with back to back meetings throughout the day. Although I felt cramps or ended up with a headache, I was always able to swing by the campus coffee shop or be late for a meeting to grab fast food to curb being hungry.

Having one full day under my belt of the SNAP Challenge, I'm surprised how much I have been thinking about food.  Not just from the perspective of what the Challenge means, but more about when do I get to eat again?  When I look at the amount of food that is supposed to sustain me for the remaining six days of the challenge, I get very nervous.  I've never had to think about food this way.  For me, food has always been available and something I don’t think about as part of my daily routine.  Until starting this Challenge, food has been a convenience to me, not a necessity.

My thoughts have been overwhelmed by making sure I ration enough each meal so as to have enough through the remainder of the Challenge.  I fear I am limiting myself more than I need to ensure I have enough for later.  While at work, I found myself planning out each day and the meals I could make to feel the most full, without running out of food.  My focus was certainly not on the work I had to get done, but rather how this Challenge I have chosen to participate in, is reality for so many. 

I am an educated adult who, for the most part, who can rationalize these thoughts and feelings; especially with an end in sight of when I get to go back to eating out of convenience.  I couldn't imagine being a child that is hungry and not sure when my next meal will be. 

When I introduced the "School Milk Bill", it was at the request of my running mate, Rick Olek, who campaigned on the idea that every child should have access to milk during their school break.  Not just the ones whose family could afford the $60 per year.  I supported the bill because at a time of billion dollar surpluses, it made sense to me that we could afford to take care the poorest of our state's children. Not only was it about nutrition, but also about ensuring that for $60 a year, most of the children who benefited from the bill would have greater focus in the classroom, leading to higher academic achievement and reduced classroom interruptions.

So I put myself in the shoes of a third grade child who is more concerned about if she gets to eat within the next day than completing her math homework, and I can now better understand how hunger is a great un-equalizer for many.



Friday, September 13, 2013

John Crabtree from the Center for Rural Affairs to Keynote Summit: Grassroots for Prosperity: Finding Opportunities, Creating Solutions

John Crabtree, Media Director for the Center for Rural Affairs in Lyons, NE, will be the keynote speaker at the “Grassroots for Prosperity: “Finding Opportunities, Creating Solutions” September 19 – 20 in Bismarck. He describes himself as unapologetically rural and shares his background:

“I grew up on my family’s farm near Sheffield, Iowa. As a University of Iowa alumnus, I am the proud owner of the only Hawkeyes flag on display in Lyons. I’m a storyteller. I tell the stories of the Center and its work to support rural people and places. I also manage our message in the media. At the end of the day media is still about one’s ability to talk with people and build relationships. Coming from an organizing background, I have some skills in that. And my many years of moonlighting as a bartender also help. People describe me as outspoken, opinionated and gregarious. My favorite part about living in a rural community is knowing my neighbors and having a feeling of connectedness to the land. I can look out my window at my garden and my flowers and in two minutes I can be in the countryside.”

John’s keynote address at the Summit, “Standing Up When Great Forces Align Against Us” will touch on important national, regional and state policy issues including the Affordable Care Act, the Farm Bill, immigration reform, hunger and poverty. John will also offer hope for making change where change needs to happen, including the role that all North Dakotans play in having a voice about our future.

John will also provide expertise by moderating a group of advocates/lobbyists talking about their legislative successes, and shortfalls, offering constructive criticism and new ideas to make our case to policy makers.  Finally, John will help participants learn new tools for community organizing and advocacy (Making Democracy Work) by engaging in interactive problem – solving for the most challenging of issues for low and moderate-income North Dakotans.

Don’t miss this opportunity! Register for the Summit today!

Representative Boschee Launches His Week on the SNAP Challenge

"When a child shows up for school, and is not physically and mentally ready to learn, he or she never catches up." - C. Everett Koop, U.S. Surgeon General (1982-1989)

I've started my journey on the SNAP Challenge with a trip to the Sunmart store near my home.  It took approximately 50 minutes to place and replace $29.45 worth of food in my cart to sustain the seven day challenge.  I left the store crabby from the process of shopping on a restricted budget and frustrated as I reflected on the fact that this was a way of life for thousands of North Dakotans.  I was also $0.56 over budget because the scale near the produce differed from the scale at check-out, causing me to calculate my bananas wrong.

In full disclosure, I had planned to start the challenge several days earlier, but I continued to adjust my schedule so that I could travel without being limited by my food budget or to take in an evening of catching up with a friend over appetizers and a cocktail.  It wasn't until I was exactly seven days out from the ND Economic Security and Prosperity Alliance and Creating a Hunger Free ND Summit that I assisted in planning and agreed to serve on a panel to discuss my SNAP Challenge experience.  With my feet to the fire, I recognize the privilege I have in this challenge of making the experience as convenient as possible to my way of life and that if I don't succeed in the challenge I have a healthy bank account to access for food funds.

I took on this challenge to gain a better understanding of the experiences of North Dakotans who access SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) as a way to feed themselves and their family.  While we currently hear the political rhetoric associated with SNAP and the Farm Bill, the reality is that SNAP is essential to approximately 27,200 households in North Dakota.  As a policy maker who wants to work towards solutions that advance people and families out of poverty, I think it is important to gain a better understanding of current programs and how individuals/families work within the program.

Stay tuned as I document my experience and gather information from others throughout the week!

Monday, September 9, 2013

More North Dakota Families Now Qualify for Help in Paying for Child Care

More working families and those attending school now qualify for help with child care costs through the North Dakota Department of Human Services. 2013 Legislation increased the qualifying income levels to 85% of the state median income making more families eligible and reducing family co-payments.  The ND Child Care Assistance Program is available to families participating in an approved activity such as employment or school.

"The cost of child care can take up a large portion of a family's income," said Carol Cartledge, Department of Human Services' Economic Assistance Policy Division director. "These changes will help more working families afford quality child care for their children."

According the ND Department of Human Services website, a family of four can now earn up to $5851 a month and still qualify.  Most families pay a co-payment, which is the amount you are required to pay towards the costs of child care.  Families must pay their co-payment and any costs charged by the child care provider that are not covered by the Child Care Assistance Program. 

Applicants must provide a form of identification, children’s birth certificates, pay stubs for all income in the previous and current month and a schedule for their approved activity such as work or school.

Costs for care have risen. According ND Child Care Resource & Referral, in 2012 infant care cost an average of $612 per month/child at a child care center and $544 per month/child for 3- to 5-year-olds.  In 2009 those numbers were $592 per month and $516 respectively.

The passing of this child care related legislation provided significant child care fee relief for the families purchasing child care.  Families are encouraged to visit the ND Department of Human Services website for more information.  Families may apply online or print an application.  The department has also made available online the sliding fee scale which outlines the various income levels and co-payments a family may be responsible for.
Child Care Resource & Referral helps parents find child care by providing computer generated lists of licensed child care programs that meet the family’s specific child care needs.  If you would like additional child care related information, please contact 1-888-223-1510.




Friday, August 30, 2013

Are you up for the Challenge?
Take the SNAP Challenge during September, Hunger Action Month

“The SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge gives participants a view of what life can be like for millions of low-income Americans. Most participants take the Challenge for one week, living on a little over $4 per day worth of food – the average food stamp benefit. Challenge participants are forced to make food shopping choices on a limited budget, and often realize how difficult it is to avoid hunger, afford nutritious foods, and stay healthy with too few resources. While living on a food stamp budget for just a week cannot come close to the struggles encountered by low income families week after week and month after month, it does provide those who take the Challenge with a new perspective and greater understanding.”
-          from the FRAC SNAP Challenge Toolkit

SNAP Challenge Rules:

·         $4.25 per person per day or $29.75 for the week (the 2012 average amount per recipient in North Dakota) to spend on all food and beverages during the Challenge.

·         All food purchased and eaten during the Challenge week, including fast food and dining out, must be included in the total spending.

·         During the Challenge, only eat food that you purchase for the project. Do not eat food that you already own (this does not include spices and condiments).

·         Don’t forget to account for all beverages. This includes coffee.

·         Avoid accepting free food from friends, family, or at work, including at receptions, briefings, or other events where food is served.

·         Keep track of receipts on food spending and reflect on your experiences throughout the week.

·         Bonus activity: Track your food on SuperTracker and compare your intake to recommendations.  http://www.choosemyplate.gov/supertracker-tools/supertracker.html
·         Bonus activity: Document your activity in writing or with photographs and share it here: https://www.facebook.com/NDESPA  or here:

Friday, August 16, 2013

September 19-20 in Bismarck, NDESPA and the Creating a Hunger Free North Dakota Coalition bring you the opportunity come together, learn and mobilize for a better North Dakota with the
Grassroots for Prosperity: Finding Opportunities, Creating Solutions Summit.

Summit Goals include learning about successes failures and future challenges presented by the ND legislature from an advocates' perspective; learning about new models of organizing, activating, communicating and participating in public life in North Dakota; and learning about the results of a SNAP Challenge for ND leaders and citizens.
Register here: http://bit.ly/1ePDXk2
The tentative agenda:

Thursday, September 19
11:00 a.m.    Registration

11:45 a.m.    Welcome: Lt. Governor Drew Wrigley (invited)
Opening Prayer and Drum Group Honor Song (in honor of the 30th Anniversary of Great Plains Food Bank) Introduced by ND Indian Affairs Commission Executive Director Scott Davis

12:30 p.m.    Farmer’s Share Lunch including dessert: Birthday/Anniversary Cake

1:15 p.m.    Summit Goals and Agenda Overview
        NDESPA & CHFND – Commonalities and Challenges: Karen Ehrens

1:30 p.m.    Keynote: John Crabtree, Center for Rural Affairs

2:45 p.m.    The State of the ND Budget: April Fairfield, Bush Fellow

3:45 p.m.    (Not Your Typical) Legislative Review: A Panel of Advocacy Voices
        Moderated Panel & Discussion by John Crabtree, Center for Rural Affairs

5:15 p.m.    Networking Social - hors d'oeuvres, assorted beverages

6:15 p.m.    Popcorn & a Movie: A Place at the Table (90 minutes)
        Lively Discussion

Friday, September 20

7:30 a.m.    Breakfast Buffet

8:30 a.m.    Grassroots Organizing: An Interactive Session with John Crabtree
10:15 a.m.    The SNAP Challenge: A Panel of Emerging Experts

11:15 a.m.    The Strategy for 2013 & Beyond: A Call to Action from Coalitions

11:45 a.m.    Summary Remarks

12:00 noon   Adjourn

We hope to see you at the Kelly Inn, 1800 N 12th St Bismarck. Registration fee is only $40.00.
Scholarships are available for those unable to pay. Contact NDESPA@agree.org

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

West River Head Start Outside Classroom: No Child Left Inside 2013

This summer West River Head Start is doing something exciting, creative, and innovative for the children. We are creating an outside classroom that infuses Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM). This classroom will not only increase learning outcomes for our children, but also make learning a fun and memorable experience. 

West River Head Start enrolls preschool aged children (3-5) that, more often than not, come from an at-risk background. These students do not always have the opportunity to get outside and enjoy nature, and we intend to change that by leaving no child inside!

The classroom will consist of outside features that are abundant and free such as tree stumps and limbs to sit, jump and play on. However, we do need other outside artifacts that harder to come by.  For example, live trees, bushes and flowers, landscaping timbers and rocks, outside worktables, materials to construct a music and art space, and potting soil.  

Partners: There are several community-minded groups that have already stepped up to participate in helping West River Head Start with No Child Left Inside, including:

  • Straightway Construction of Bismarck has graciously donated $2,000.00 for the construction of the fencing that must encompass our space to keep it safe and secure.  
  • The Boy Scouts are always prepared and, lucky for us; a local Eagle Scout has volunteered to create a water feature and several garden boxes for his Eagle Scout Project. These features will be utilized in both education on science, biology, and agriculture. 
  • Ken Paulus, welding instructor at Bismarck State College, has agreed to have his welding students create metal animal sculptures for the classroom – our students are thrilled!
  • The North Dakota Council on the Arts is providing grant funding for sculpture in the outdoor classroom – all the while creating enjoyment and learning experiences for the children! We are working closely with the NDCA on several fronts including potential grants for arts – infused lessons.

WestRiver Head Start is a program of HIT Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. All cash donations are tax deductible and your donation will go directly to the outdoor classroom; this includes supplies, and/or materials to create the space. Can you help us with a donation of time, talent or money?

For more information and to donate, contact: 
Joey Kolosky, Director
West River Head Start

The outdoor classroom will be an innovative, energetic, hands-on laboratory where students will learn about both the arts and sciences. West River Head Start knows the importance of fostering the love of learning early; this classroom will provide a strong foundation for children’s learning that they will carry with them throughout their academic lives.

The children and staff of West River Head Start thank you in advance for your consideration and time. 

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” ~ Benjamin Franklin~

Monday, June 10, 2013

Summer Food Service Program Looks to Expand in North Dakota

Nearly 80,000 children eat lunch at school in North Dakota during the school year; about one-half of those lunches are served to children from families with low incomes.

Now that school is out for the summer, kids are at home or out in the community, and they still need to eat lunch.  There is a Summer Food Service Program that provides lunches to kids in the state, but only about 3,800 lunches per day are served.  That shows a big gap in the number of lunches served during the school year and those served during the summer. With increasing food costs and parents working throughout the day, the question is, “Where are kids eating?”

To help fill the gap, the search is on for organizations to sponsor Summer Food Service Programs (SFSP’s) in the state. Child Nutrition and Food Distribution Programs in the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction administers this federal child nutrition program of the USDA. The program provides reimbursement for meals served in low-income areas of a town or to those organizations that serve a high number of children from low-income families.  Sponsoring agencies can be school (public or private), government agencies, private nonprofit organizations, or others.

If you think you know of an organization who could sponsor, prepare and serve lunches, breakfasts and/or snacks to kids, look for more information at USDA's Summer Food Service Program or ND Department of Public Instruction's Child Nutrition and Food Distribution  or contact Kaye at Child Nutrition Food Distribution Programs, 701- 328-2275. 

Karen K. Ehrens, RD, LRD
Creating a Hunger Free North Dakota Coalition Coordinator

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Head Start, Sequestration, and NO state support

North Dakota is one state in about 10 that has consistently provided no state dollars to supplement federal funding of Head Start.  Subsequently, Head Start in North Dakota is 100% federally funded with a requirement of raising $1 local match for every $4 federal funding.  Federal funding has not kept pace with the consumer price index. 

For the fourth straight legislative session, the North Dakota Head Start Association worked with legislative allies in presenting a funding bill to the North Dakota legislature.  This year HB1356 proposed providing $6,175,000 for the biennium to accommodate the large waiting lists and other funding gaps for low-income children.  HB1356 was hog housed in the House education committee and turned into a early childhood interim study to be conducted by the Department of Public Instruction with no funding. Through many twists and turns during the session, the bill was defeated in the House by a vote of 34-59. The session ended, once again, without any funding for Head Start. 

photo courtesy of National Head Start Association

Meanwhile, Federal sequestration was looming and took affect on March 1, 2013, and the first rounds of cuts for Head Start will occur on July 1, 2013. The effects of sequestration on Head Starts across ND will leave behind over 160 families who currently benefit from the program.

Head Start in the state is hurting which negatively impacts the most at risk children. North Dakotans need to speak up to change this negative impact. Tell Congress and the President to end sequestration NOW. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Wins in the ND 2013 Legislative Session

The longest session in history ended May 3rd in the wee hours of the morning. Two moves on the part of the legislature show a little progress from the state in enacting policy for low and moderate income individuals in ND.

Medicaid Expansion passed and the Governor signed it into law. In North Dakota, there are currently 29,000 uninsured adults who will be eligible for Medicaid under the state expanded Medicaid program. Of these, 24,000 would be newly eligible for Medicaid with the expansion, while 5,000 are eligible for the program under current rules but are not enrolled. This expanded access to coverage is surely to improve the health of North Dakotans.

The state's child care assistance program was expanded to allow subsidies up to 85% of state median income, up from 49%. This gives ND among the most generous child care subsidies program in the nation. What this means for families is greater access to affordable child care which keeps parents in the work force. The dollar amount quickly translated means a family of three making around $60,000 or below would received subsidies and require a small co-pay based on a sliding fee scale.

NDESPA partners will follow the implementation of both to see the impact in the state.

Keep up with the blog as we post more reviews through the next few weeks.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Join us for A Place at the Table - 5:30 on May 9th at the Grand Theater

NDESPA and partners will host a viewing of A Place at the Table on May 9th at 5:30 at the Grand Theater in Bismarck. Join us for the film and a short discussion after.

A Place At The Table - One Nation. Underfed.
Fifty million people in the U.S.—one in four children—don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Directors Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush examine the issue of hunger in America through the lens of three people struggling with food insecurity: Barbie, a single Philadelphia mother who grew up in poverty and is trying to provide a better life for her two kids; Rosie, a Colorado fifth-grader who often has to depend on friends and neighbors to feed her and has trouble concentrating in school; and Tremonica, a Mississippi second-grader whose asthma and health issues are exacerbated by the largely empty calories her hardworking mother can afford.

Ultimately, A Place at the Table shows us how hunger poses serious economic, social and cultural implications for our nation, and that it could be solved once and for all, if the American public decides — as they have in the past — that making healthy food available and affordable is in the best interest of us all.