Monday, February 28, 2011

112th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

Teachers Say Most Kids Rely on
School Meals as their
Primary Source of Nutrition

For more than 15 years, Jeff Bridges has been a spokesperson for and an
active participant with Share Our Strength.
A new study found that at least 65% of the teachers in K-12 schools see hungry kids every day. To help combat their students’ hunger, four out of ten of these teachers spend an average of $25 a month buying food.

Not helping the situation are three huge teacher challenges: 84% name discipline as a major problem, 42% site lack of school supplies and 40% point to student hunger. And of course, hunger can and often does foster unruly student behavior.

Share Our Strength, the Washington, DC based non-profit authored the study in an effort to highlight the expansion of child hunger in America. But Share Our Strength also offers a solution. Their primary mission is to fully maximize the effective government programs that “provide nutritious food to children at home (SNAP, or food stamps, WIC, and nutrition education), during school (breakfast and lunch, and through nutrition education) and when school is out (afterschool snacks and summer meals).”

About 60% of the students who qualify utilize the lunch program and only 40% of the 60% take advantage of the breakfast program. This means there are funds available, $1 billion or more, but parents don’t know about the programs or are reluctant to join because of a perceived stigma for them and their children.

After viewing the Share Our Strength video on CNN, I scrolled down to the comments section and was a bit surprised by a number of “programmed” responses. “Parents are at fault.” “If you can’t feed your kids, don’t have kids.” “Make more money, save more money”

Stigma, I guess!

Hunger is Not a Fault
The one thing none of these opinioned folks considered was making money is a skill, not a process like breathing in and breathing out or running off at the mouth.

Some people are good at baseball, most are not. Some people are good at running a business, most are not. It’s the same with making money. Some, about 1% are good at making money, 99% are not. If someone makes a “good living” so to speak—say $100,000 or $200,000 a year—that’s an incredibility poor performance when compared to the 1% folks.

And what’s so great about the ability to make money anyway—because no matter who we are—we all end up in line at the Pearly Gates. There, bags of gold have absolutely no value, only bags of good deeds help pay the entrance fee.

Get the Hungry Kids Signed Up
If you know a family in the school lunch program, go talk to them about the breakfast program and the backpack program. Or call the Community Food Bank and ask them how you can help promote the food assistance programs at you neighborhood school. As my dad used to say, “It’s not a sin to be poor…just damn inconvenient.”

Decent Collection This Week Except for the Half Naked Popcorn
The exposed popcorn bag on top promotes itself as half naked but offers no further explanation. Checked out Google and still no clear description of even what clothed popcorn is. Perhaps one is supposed to eat this popcorn in a darkened room.

We collected a total of 152 lbs. of food, including 26 lbs. from The Axis Food Mart. The money we donated amounted to $59.50, $9.50 in cash and two $25.00 checks.

See you Sunday,


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

111th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

One Can A Week is Much More than a
Food Donation Program

It All Started with a Pizza
Around the 20th of January I stopped by Congresswoman Giffords’ office and spoke to John Rorke, who was Gabe Zimmerman’s mentee. My idea was to tell someone about my earlier conversation with Gabby and her One Can A Week concept.

When I met Gabby at the Rincon Market in early November—just before the election— she mentioned that perhaps many of her volunteers would want to and perhaps need to do something after the election. She thought introducing them to the One Can A Week program might be an option.

John was very busy but patient with me and took the time to listen to what I had to say and then jotted down my phone number.

A week later John called me with an idea of his own which we discussed a couple of days later over pizza at the Old Chicago restaurant on Campbell. He also introduced me to his associates Stacey Harrington and Jose "Vidal" Ramirez.

John, Stacey and Vidal are graduate students at the ASU School of Social Work - Tucson Component. They are working as a team on a “change project” and wanted to submit a proposal to their professor utilizing One Can A Week.

Yesterday I received an email from their professor, Kent Burbank, Faculty Associate, responding to their project for his Social Work Practice Class - Spring 2011.

Professor Burbank’s opening paragraph made my day. “Vidal, John, and Stacey, Your planned change project for my ASU Social Work class sounds good. I am glad you are working with One Can a Week. I like One Can a Week because it combines community/neighborhood organizing and education with efforts to eradicate hunger in our community.”

The first time I learned that One Can A Week was more than a community food collection program was back in 2009 when Brett Weisel called me from Feeding America, the nation's leading domestic hunger-relief charity. He was the first one to explain the full potential of One Can A Week to me. He also introduced me to Sandy Scott, Sr. Communications Advisor at The Corporation for National and Community Service.

What both of these gentlemen told me lo those many months ago is true. Last Wednesday, 25 or so neighbors showed up—not the normal 4 or 5— to our monthly Miles Neighborhood meeting after I distributed on my Sunday rounds a little flyer detailing the agenda.

Now with sociologists focusing on the community building aspects of One Can A Week, I feel more hopeful than ever that we can and will end hunger here in Tucson.

A Little Gleaning Time
Near the end of my rounds on Sunday, Dan on Manlove handed me a can of tuna and suggested I take a bunch of tangerines from his tree on the side of the driveway. Since I always have a plastic bag handy and a love of plucking, I quickly filled a bag with some very fresh

fruit. No wonder One Can A Week is successful. Food is everywhere in the Miles Neighborhood.

We collected a total of 186 lbs. of food, including 18 lbs. of produce and 38 lbs. from The Axis Food Mart. The money we donated amounted to $12.50 in cash. Add to those 186 lbs., another 354 lbs. from the Miles School, the Sunflower Market and the Rincon Market. We just dropped off 540 lbs. of food.

See you Sunday,


Monday, February 14, 2011

110th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,
A Spectacularly Ordinary Day!

Every time I sit down to write I get to relive Adam (on the left) and Molly enjoying the sights and sounds at the St. Philip’s Plaza a few summers ago. The photo is the most positive screensaver I’ve ever had and their image puts me in the right mood almost immediately. But today I was more interested in finding an idea to write about than appreciating the moment.

Since opening the Axis Food Mart at 7 am, I had been contemplating different idea …some related to food; some not. Should the Egyptian Army be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize? Or how come the turnout at the Hi Corbett Field “Tucson Has Heart” photo shoot Sunday was far less than the predicted 12,000 participants? I was looking for something provocative. Soon I was settling on just interesting but nothing was happening.

After work ended at 1 pm and lunch at 2 pm, I drove our Sunday collection to the Community Food Bank. Keith was there to help me and I had all of the food logged in by 2:30. With the window down on the drive back home, the weather and the warm breezes were starting to work their magic on me. What an incredible day! My flu is nearly gone, my neighbors and I just fed a lot of hungry folks so what am I stressing about?

We collected a total of 200 lbs. of food, including 12 lbs. from The Axis Food Mart. The money we donated amounted to $21.00 in cash. Add to those 200 lbs., another 174 lbs. from the Miles School, the Sunflower Market and the Rincon Market. We just dropped off 374 lbs. of food.

In the short 15-minute drive to my home, I had a complete attitude adjustment. The rest of the afternoon and early evening consisted of a one-hour nap, a long walk with the pups at the Williams Center and a tasty dinner of enhanced Campbell’s Healthy Request Chicken with Rice soup. (I toss in a whole bunch more chicken and reduce the recommended water by half.) Mmmmm…good!

Now that I understand and appreciate what today was really all about, I’m ready to write. And you know, that’s another great think about today … I finished writing even before I began.

See you next Sunday.


Monday, February 7, 2011

109th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks
Not Much Time At All

Most Mondays the food laden shopping carts are weighed and hurried off the scales to the volunteers sorting at the other end of the warehouse. Last Monday the four carts were just parked near the scales in a nice neat row. When I got home I still had that image of those heaping food carts in my mind and I thought, “Boy, did that look like a lot of food.”

Normally I keep all of the tallies separate—Miles Neighborhood, Miles School, Axis Food Mart, Rincon Market and Sunflower Market—but I became curious about the amount of time it took to gather all of that food so I jotted down what we do and when.

Miles Neighborhood – Sunday, 11:30 – 2:30 with a 45-minute lunch. Barbara, Kym and Lenny spent 60 minutes combined and just walk their routes.

Miles School – Friday, 2 – 3, with 6 minutes drive time.

Rincon Market – Saturday, 9:15 or so – 12 noon with 40 minutes drive time.

Sunflower Market – Wednesday, 3 – 6 with 60 minutes drive time.

Axis Food Mart – Monday, 15 minutes at most with 4 minutes drive time.

Community Food Bank – Monday, 2 – 2:30 with 40 minutes drive time.

All toll we spend 13 hours and 15 minutes a week collecting food.

Last week we collected— counting everybody—574 lbs. of food. This week the combined total was 454 lbs. of food.

One Can A Week has to be the easiest and most productive job I have ever had. And so much good is coming out of all of our efforts.

Ten-year-old Margaret Amshay of
Farmington Hills, MI is a fifth-grader
with her own One Can A Week program.
  Kids Don't Kid About Caring
I love email for lots of reasons but mostly the surprises I receive now and again. This morning I opened an email from…well, I’ll let you find out the same way I did.

Hi Peter,
My name is Ann Amshay, and I wanted to let you know that your program is taking roots in Michigan. We learned about your program when we were visiting Lisa (Hepner), and my daughter started it in our neighborhood this summer. We are now getting some publicity and hoping to spread it to other neighborhoods here. Thought you would like to know that your great idea is growing!

Ann also sent me a link to a wonderful story about Margaret’s One Can A Week program in Southeastern Michigan. She lives in Farmington Hills which is not too far from Detroit so you know Margaret is trying to help a lot of hungry families.

By the way, here’s a link to the gritty and provocative Chrysler Super Bowl commercial that captures the spirit of the folks who live in Southeastern Michigan like Margaret and her mom.

Nobody’s Watching and That’s a Good Thing
Saturday at the Rincon Market started very early because I had to work at the Axis Food Mart from 8 – 10 am. Since I can’t be two places at once, I set up the One Can A Week display table at 7:30, tossed a dollar and a few coins in the donation plate and left. When I returned about 10:15, the donation plate had four more dollars in it along with a mound of change.

To tell you the truth, when I put the unguarded dollar in the donation plate I thought … hmm, you know what I thought … but I am so glad I was disappointed.

Beanies and Bananas
The cold snap apparently motivated the Knitting Lady in the Library to turn out a dozen or so colorful beanies. Not sure if people will wear them since our Tucson weather has returned, but they sure kept the cereal boxes toasty.

We collected a total of 200 lbs. of food, including 20 lbs. of produce and 8 lbs. from The Axis Food Mart. The money we donated amounted to $51.00 … a $25.00 check and $26.00 in cash.

See you Sunday,