Growing food and eating healthy at MLK Jr. school 

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OKT’s Program for Growth at Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Academy , in collaboration with Grand Rapids Public Schools, challenges students and their families to eat healthy through growing food and learning to cook more nutritious meals. Way to go MLK!

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Urban Roots hosts farm open house Wednesday

downloadUrban Roots Farm Open House
June 20, 2018 5:30-7:30 pm June 20, 2018
1316 Madison SE 49507

Farm Open Houses are an opportunity to celebrate our community together and explore the farm. Come when you can, stay as long as you are able, and share a farm-fresh meal with the Urban Roots staff. There’s a seat for everyone at the table. (And all the fresh strawberries you can eat.)

The Open House will be from 5:30-7:30 at 1316 Madison SE 49507. There is plenty of street parking or in the lot across the street.  Check out the Facebook event.

Comparing the Farm Bills’ Effects on Nutrition and Farmers Markets: House vs. Senate

 

GetStoredImageby Grace Michienzi,
OKT policy & communications intern

On May 18, The U.S. House of Representatives voted and failed to pass their version of the Farm Bill with a 198 to 213 vote, according to CNBC. House Speaker Paul Ryan suggested that he plans to reintroduce the bill after making negotiations on the Immigration debate in Congress, but it is unclear when the bill would be voted on again, according to the article.

According to NPR, one of the reasons that the bill failed was because of drastic changes to some of the programs that the bill supports. One of the most drastic changes is to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, a program that feeds over 40 million people in need. The changes would alter the criteria for eligible adults, mandating that any adult that receives funding must work or attend a job-training program for at least 20 hours per week or risk losing their eligibility. According to the USDA website, the SNAP rules already involve a work requirement. Adults aged 18 to 50 are limited to three months with three years of SNAP benefits unless they work or participate in a job-training program. However, the failed House version of the Farm Bill mandates that no able-bodied adult within this age range and without dependents would be able to receive benefits without meeting the work requirements, which amounts to about 7 million people, pushing those in between jobs or those who are unemployed out of the SNAP program.

Additionally, other nutritional support programs are at risk of losing funding if a new Farm Bill is not passed by the end of September. According to the Farmers Market Coalition, the 2014 Farm Law will expire at the end of September and if nothing replaces it, the law will revert back to “permanent law” from 1938 legislation. If this happens, extra programs that the law funds will be cut, including programs such as the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program, the Food Insecurity Nutrition Program, and the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program. The Food Insecurity Nutrition Program is what currently funds half of the Double Up Food Bucks Program in Michigan, which allows SNAP recipients to “double” the amount of fruits and vegetables they buy at participating farmers markets and grocery stores. If a Farm Bill is not passed by September 30, these programs will all expire.

On the other hand, the Senate is focused on a much more bipartisan and less controversial bill that will likely be easier to pass by the September 30 deadline, according to Agri-Pulse. Although the official bill has not been released to the public yet, it is said to be much more moderate in its crafting. According to the article, Senate leaders including Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts and ranking member Debbie Stabenow have reached a deal that will be acted upon by the board panel by Wednesday. The current draft does not include any new eligibility exemptions regarding work hours like the House Bill does. In fact, most of the changes are minor and the bill is considered to be very similar to the 2014 bill, according to Ag-Web.

The Senate bill was crafted this way to get more votes in order to pass the bill by the September 30 deadline, which means that programs like Double Up Food Bucks may not lose their funding. According to an interview with KTIC Radio, Republican Senator Deb Fischer said that it does not make sense to bring up contentious debate about the Nutrition programs when they need to get the Farm Bill passed soon. According to the article, Republicans and Democrats in the Senate may appear to be working together to get this bipartisan legislation passed, but it remains unclear whether President Trump will sign or pass the legislation when and if it makes it to his office.

 

Sources:

 

Booker, Brakkton, and Dan Charles. “Republican Farm Bill Calls On Many SNAP

Recipients To Work Or Go To School.” National Public Radio, NPR, 12 Apr. 2018. Accessed 5 June 2018.

Brasher, Philip, and Spencer Chase. “Senate Ag leaders reach deal on farm bill.” Agri-Pulse,

Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc., 7 June 2018. Accessed 7 June 2018.

Doeschot, Bryce. “(Video) Senate Agriculture Committee Leaders Announce Farm Bill

Consideration.” KTIC Radio, Nebraska Rural Radio Association, 7 June 2018. Accessed 7 June 2018.

Feldman, Ben. “What does the House Farm Bill ‘No’ Vote Mean for Farmers Market?.” Farmers

Market Coalition. Accessed 6 June 2018.

Herath, John. “Date Set for Senate Farm Bill Markup.” Ag-Web, Farm Journal Media, 7 June

  1. Accessed 8 June 2018.

Prumak, Jacob. “House fails to pass farm bill amid Republican rebellion over immigration.”

CNBC, CNBC LLC, 18 May 2018. Accessed 6 June 2018.

“Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.” United States Department of Agriculture

Food and Nutrition Service, USDA, 26 Feb. 2018. Accessed 8 June 2018.

OKT presents at City-sponsored workshop

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Growing: Community Justice and Food
6-9 p.m. Monday June 18
Baxter Community Center, 935 Baxter St. SE 49506

OKT’s executive director, Lisa Oliver-King will talk about growing food–and growing justice–in Grand Rapids’ southeast neighborhoods. The workshop seeks to share how to strengthen relationships and quality of life in these neighborhoods, practice food justice and engage neighbors via a community garden with financial support from the City of Grand Rapids Neighborhood Match Fund (NMF) www.grandrapidsmi.gov/nmf.

The main goals of the NMF are to build stronger connections among residents in neighborhoods, and to address and promote social justice. All projects, including community gardens, must intentionally advance these goals. So if you’re a GR resident interested in starting a community garden to grow community, justice and food – attend this workshop for important tips and strategies.

LITTLE FREE LIBRARY OPENS SATURDAY

LFL photoLITTLE FREE LIBRARY FOR KIDS OPENS SATURDAY, JUNE 9,
IN OAKDALE NEIGHBORHOOD

Neighbors of all ages have pulled together to establish a Little Free Library in a vacant lot at 1025 Oakdale St SE. The grand opening on Saturday, June 9, from 1 to 3 p.m. will feature free snacks, drumming, Vizions Dance, making bookmarks and, of course, BOOKS!

“If you can, bring a book to share at the grand opening. People who bring identification can also sign up for a free Grand Rapids Public Library card and Read to Ride bus pass to use at local branches,” said Teresa Jones.

The Little Free Library (LFL) at 1025 Oakdale St SE will focus on books for preschoolers through middle schoolers. Anyone may add or take a book at any time. The books are for sharing and must not be sold. The site also includes a picnic table, so neighborhood youth and adults can offer weekly summer story times in English, Spanish or Kinyarwanda.

The LFL at 1025 Oakdale St SE is officially registered by Little Free Library, an international nonprofit that fosters neighborhood book exchanges around the world. Its website states, “One of the most successful ways to improve the reading achievement of children is to increase their access to books, especially at home.”

The 1025 Oakdale St SE project is made possible by the City of Grand Rapids Neighborhood Match Fund, Habitat for Humanity of Kent County (which owns the vacant lot), Oakdale Neighbors, Modern Hardware, Steelcase, Bimbo Bakeries, Redux Books, Standard Lumber and dozens of neighbors and book donors.

OKT comments on State’s Lead Poisoning report: Why no mention of higher incidence among children of color?

EFFECTS.jpgOn May 31, Our Kitchen Table attended a hearing at the Kent County Health Department to comment on the  Child Lead Poisoning Elimination Board  report, “Roadmap to Eliminating Child Lead Exposure.”  (See OKT’s comments below.)

Governor Rick Snyder established the board through executive order because “because “…there exists a need in state government for a coordinated effort to design a long term strategy for eliminating child lead poisoning in the state of Michigan.” The board consists of medical, environmental, and child education experts, academics, civic leaders, and state department representatives.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) recently awarded OKT a $75, 000 Child Lead Exposure Elimination Innovation Grant. Find OKT’s comments on the report below.

The members of the board present were genuinely and passionately concerned about childhood lead poisoning. The CLEEC_Action_Plan they have developed is a great framework for eliminating lead poisoning. It includes recommendations for better testing of home and daycare environments, having all children tested for lead poisoning, testing pregnant women at-risk for lead poisoning, and getting the medical community to be more vigilant about lead poisoning. In short, the plan seeks to eliminate the deep root causes of lead poisoning so children won’t be exposed in the first place.

This good plan faces one huge obstacle: funding. Those in the room last night suggested that to create lead-safe communities state-wide would cost at least $1 billion. In addition, because of potential costs, groups like the Rental Property Owners Association (RPOA) are actively fighting against enhanced requirements for lead testing–and are quick to blame tenants for lead hazards. While Snyder approved funding the creation of the board, he has not championed funding to implement the action plan. And, when fall elections usher in different elected officials, there’s a possibility that the whole board could be scrapped.

Our Kitchen Table Public Comment on Childhood Lead Poisoning

On behalf of Our Kitchen Table and its executive director, Lisa Oliver-King, I thank you for your work on eliminating childhood lead poisoning. As a grass-roots, nonprofit working for environmental justice through the lens of food justice, OKT would like to state that:

  1. While the report discloses that children living in neighborhoods experiencing income-challenges and older housing stock are more likely to experience lead poisoning, it does not relate that children of color are more likely to experience lead poisoning. In fact, African American children are five times more likely to be poisoned by lead than white children— and Latinx children more than twice as likely as white children. Studies conducted the National Institutes of Health right here in Michigan determined that that, in utero, African American babies are more than twice as likely to be lead poisoned. As one of the outcomes of prenatal lead poisoning is premature birth, lead poisoning no doubt contributes to African American infant mortality rates being twice that of white infant mortality rates—right here in Kent County. In addition, the report speaks to higher incarceration rates among those who experienced lead poisoning as children. One could deduce that lead poisoning is also partly responsible for the African Americans having higher rates of incarceration. It’s more than the school to prison pipeline. It’s also a poisoned to prison pipeline. Thus, childhood lead poisoning in Michigan is not just a public health concern but also a justice and civil rights issue. The high rates of lead poisoning among African American children reveal yet another facet of institutional racism.

  2. The report acknowledges soil contamination as contributing to lead poisoning. Through our food gardening work in Grand Rapids 49507, a zip code reporting one of the highest number of lead poisoned children in the state, OKT has discovered that housing stock is not the only contributor to soil contamination. More than a century ago, the area had orchards. Lead was an ingredient in pesticides then used, as well as arsenic. Therefore, sampling soil near built structures is not enough. No doubt, other means of lead contamination have impacted soil in other regions in the state. Housing stock should not be the only cause considered.

  3. The report does mention nutrition and micro-nutrient supplementation as a means to treat lead poisoned children. Studies have shown that certain foods help absorb lead in the body: dark green vegetables and leafy greens, legumes, dried fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains, dark green vegetables, grapefruit and sweet red pepper. In other words, a healthy, whole foods diet with a huge emphasis on fresh local produce. As the neighborhoods experiencing high childhood lead exposure also experience food apartheid, OKT sees lead poisoning as a food justice issue. If these children — and their mothers — had access to these healthy foods prior to lead exposure, no doubt they would suffer fewer repercussions. The lack of access to healthy foods also bequeaths these same children with a host of other health problems: obesity, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, and behavior issues that Impact school performance.