Hunger group provides way for gardeners and farmers help food pantries

As the weather becomes consistently warmer throughout the nation, many gardeners’ and farmers’ minds turn to the land and the spring planting season. But their thoughts also make considerations for the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, Feeding America, where food and grocery products will help feed more than 37 million low-income Americans through a network of more than 200 food banks in the U.S.

If gardeners and farmers wish to help their local food banks, Feeding America suggests the following steps:

Contact the local Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers and Ranchers organization and help contribute a bushel, a dollar or an hour. The organization provides 33 million pounds of food, volunteer hours and has given more than $800,000 to local food banks and pantries in 2013.  Contact jborys@feedingamerican.org for more information.

Farmers and families that live in rural areas might consider designating acres to donate their crops to local food banks or maybe taking a portion of their crop’s sale and donating it to local book food pantries.  InvestAnAcre@feedingamerica.org.

Also, with more than 84 million households with gardens in the U.S., many gardeners are planting an extra row of produce for soup kitchens and food pantries to help feed the hungry. Plant A Row hotline is (887) 492-2727 to find a campaign in the area.

Feeding American is a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks that leads the fight against hunger in the United States. The organization provides food to more than 37 million people through 61,000 food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters in communities across the U.S. Feeding America also supports programs that improve food security among the people they serve; educates the public about hunger issues; and advocates for legislation that protects people from going hungry. Visit Feeding America.org or go on InvestAnAcre@feedingamerica.org or go to Twitter at Twitter.com/Feeding America.

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Underbelly of unemployment shows homelessness

Rosa Serrano and her seven children at the Days Inn in Shrewsbury, Mass., where they were living since November until being moved to more permanent housing. Worcester Telegram and Gazette photo

The published unemployment numbers show progress in the American economy.  But what the underbelly of the unemployment numbers doesn’t show is that homeless shelters are filling up, and states are picking up the tab by housing people in low-cost hotels and emergency shelters, especially families with children. Damaged by the results of the Great Recession including long-term unemployment, foreclosures, evictions and health care costs has led families into the only housing available to them.

In the state of Massachusetts there is a “right to shelter” budget provision that requires the state to house homeless families that qualify. Yet, these families must show they are victims of domestic violence, a natural disaster, a no-fault eviction, or have spent a night in a place not meant for human habitation.

A New England Center for Investigative reporter, Rupa Shenoy, covers Massachusetts’ raising homeless challenges and how taxpayers are flipping the bill as a result of the lingering effects of the Great Recession.

- Sharon Dunten, editor, SurvivingTimes.com

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2011 Sundance film launches movement for equality

The Representation Project is a movement that uses film and media content to expose injustices created by gender stereotypes and to shift people’s consciousness towards change. Interactive campaigns, strategic partnerships and education initiatives inspire individuals and communities to challenge the status quo and ultimately transform culture so everyone, regardless of gender, race, class, age, sexual orientation or circumstance can fulfill their potential.

For more information visit therepresentationproject.org. 

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School-to-prison pipeline might start as early as preschool

By high school many minority students or students with disabilities could be on the school-to-prison pipeline. palantelatino.com photo

By Sharon Dunten, editor of SurvivingTimes.com

Are we giving up on a large population of our young people in this country?  With minority students and students with disabilities, including teens with emotional and behavioral problems, carrying the majority of school suspensions and high school dropout rates, could the path toward school-to-prison pipeline be condemning a new generation to failure?

When I worked as a reporter in Mississippi several years ago, the self-fulfilling prophecy for many minority students went as far back as preschool. One southern Mississippi school official told to me the state counted the amount of children not attending preschool programs as an indication of how many prison cells would be required for state correctional facilities 20 to 25 years later. Their justification to watch these numbers was due to the inaccessibility or cuts of preschool programs such as a Head Start, and the broad number of illiterate parents unable to teach the fundamentals early childhood skills to prepare their children to enter kindergarten.  As a result, many preschoolers might start out behind in school as early as five years-old.

By the time many of the minority or students with disabilities enter high school, there is an even bigger chance a student could be railed onto the school-to-prison pipeline.

In a comprehensive report by America Aljazeera, the saga of the school-to-prison pipeline is examined with alarming statistics.  Link here.

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Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech a benchmark for peace and equality

Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke to millions at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. on August 28, 1963.

By Sharon Dunten, editor of SurvivingTimes.com

In 1963 I was only five years-old, but I knew something extraordinary was happening in this country.  As I watched the television network news with my family, I saw the raw footage of riots in the South and fires in Detroit as this country fought for civil rights for all its citizens.  As a child, these images sometimes frightened me, but they also intrigued me.  I just couldn’t figure out what the fuss was all about.  I guess at five we are still color blind.  I don’t remember watching Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech on television, but I do remember the news of his speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial was all over the newspaper headlines. Very soon after his speech, President Kennedy was shot and killed.  And in 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.  I was ten years-old in 1968 and was beginning to understand the chaos in this country concerning poverty and race, as well as the rising discourse concerning the Vietnam War.

Martin Luther King’s speech imprinted a broad change in this country that led its people toward King’s dream of quiet and peaceful protest, and even more important, equality.  Even though fighting for equality was not always peaceful, his speech and actions created a benchmark toward peaceful resolutions.

As we celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday, please re-read his speech to understand his mark in U.S. history. We might  have come far as a  nation in the understanding of equality, but we need to remain relentless in redefining equality as it was is spoken so clearly in King’s speech in 1963.  Read Martin Luther King’s speech, “I have a dream,” by linking here.

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Shriver Report website brings issues of women to forefront

The Shriver Report is a comprehensive, multidisciplinary look at how American families live and work today, giving clear insight into one of the most important social trends of our time: the emergence of women into all areas of society.  To view this new website, link here.

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Unemployment rates dropping, also wages and quality jobs

While unemployment percentages dropped in December, 3.9 million Americans are still on long-term unemployment. overfiftyandoutofwork.com photo

By Sharon Dunten, editor of SurvivingTimes.com

Today’s jobs report at first glance looks promising with the unemployment rate falling to 6.7 percent.  But if you look at the guts of this information, the unemployment crisis is still affecting so many Americans.

In an Associated Press’ article, “US economy adds 74K jobs; rate falls to 6.7 percent,” by Christopher S. Rugaber, this week’s figures are only a weak gain compared to other reports since October 2008. Yes, the unemployment percentages are falling, but the figures might not show the circumstances behind the drop.  For example:

  • Many individuals looking for jobs have stopped looking; therefore, the government no longer counts them as unemployed
  • The jobs acquired might be part-time or contract positions leaving many Americans with lower and unpredictable wages
  • Many new older workers now working again are earning less pay; new younger workers are in entry-level positions
  • December is a time for seasonal employment, and many employers are not hiring for permanent positions, especially in retail
  • US minimum wage has not kept up with the cost of living since the 1970s

To stimulate the economy, U.S. businesses need to provide better paying jobs, support more job training and provide more security in the job market. Without these elements, the dropping unemployment percentages could only be an illusion of statistics rather than the reality of workforce.

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Blizzard of 2014 hits Midwest, shows kindness of people

Hours later the path that was cleared by neighbors was drifted shut. Indianapolis declared a state of emergency on Jan. 6. Angie Rout photo

Members of an apartment community in Indianapolis start to shovel their way out of their neighborhood. Angie Rout photo

Snow and frigid cold  descended upon the Midwest for what is going to be called the Blizzard of 2014.  But sometimes a weather emergency brings out the best in people to help shelter people or to help dig out a neighbor. Unfortunately, a blizzard might erase those efforts as additional snow, high winds and subzero cold continue to afflict the Midwest.

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