Posts filed under ‘Cooking Matters’

The Farm Bill, SNAP, and You

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As Congress weighs in on the Farm Bill-  the primary agricultural and food policy tool of the federal government passed every 5 years- the future of SNAP (and SNAP education) is at stake.

What is SNAP?

SNAP offers nutrition assistance to millions of eligible, low income individuals and families and provides economic benefits to communities. SNAP is the largest program in the domestic hunger safety net.  The Food and Nutrition Service works with State agencies, nutrition educators, and neighborhood and faith-based organizations to ensure that those eligible for nutrition assistance can make informed decisions about applying for the program and can access benefits. The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service also works with State partners and the retail community to improve program administration and ensure program the integrity.

What is SNAP education?

The goal of SNAP-Ed is to improve the likelihood that persons eligible for SNAP will make healthy choices within a limited budget and choose active lifestyles consistent with the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPlate.  The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-296), section 241, established SNAP-Ed as the Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Grant Program. The Act calls for SNAP-Ed to include an emphasis on obesity prevention in addition to nutrition education.  Cooking Matters is a SNAP-Ed funded program.

It seems like everybody has their own two cents about SNAP (formerly food stamps) but we like to let the facts speak for themselves.

SNAP: Facts, Myths, and Realities

             SNAP is targeted at the most vulnerable.

  • 76% of SNAP households included a child, an elderly person, or a disabled person. These vulnerable households receive 83% of all SNAP benefits.[i]
  • Recent studies show that 49% of all SNAP participants are children (age 18 or younger), with almost two-thirds of SNAP children living in single-parent households. In total, 76% of SNAP benefits go towards households with children, 16% go to households with disabled persons, and 9% go to households with senior citizens.
  • SNAP eligibility is limited to households with gross income of no more than 130% of the federal poverty guideline, but the majority of households have income well below the maximum: 83% of SNAP households have gross income at or below 100% of the poverty guideline ($19,530 for a family of 3 in 2013), and these households receive about 91% of all benefits. 61% of SNAP households have gross income at or below 75% of the poverty guideline ($14,648 for a family of 3 in 2013).
  • The average SNAP household has a gross monthly income of $744

SNAP is responsive to changes in need, providing needed food assistance as families fall into economic hardship and then transitioning away as their financial situation stabilizes.

  • SNAP participation historically follows unemployment with a slight lag. SNAP participation grew during the recession, responding quickly and effectively to increased need. As the number of unemployed people increased by 94% from 2007 to 2011, SNAP responded with a 70% increase in participation over the same period. 
  • As the economy recovers and people go back to work, SNAP participation and program costs, too, can be expected to decline.

SNAP has a strong record of program integrity.

  • SNAP error rates declined by 57% since FY2000, from 8.91% in FY2000 to a record low of 3.80% in FY2011. The accuracy rate of 96.2% (FY2011) is an all-time program high and is considerably higher than other major benefit programs, for example Medicare fee-for-service (91.5%) or Medicare Advantage Part C (88.6%).
  • Two-thirds of all SNAP payment errors are a result of caseworker error. Nearly one-fifth are underpayments, which occur when eligible participants receive less in benefits than they are eligible to receive.
  • The national rate of food stamp trafficking declined from about 3.8 cents per dollar of benefits redeemed in 1993 to about 1.0 cent per dollar during the years 2006 to 2008.

The need for food assistance is already greater than SNAP can fill.

  • SNAP benefits don’t last most participants the whole month. 90% of SNAP benefits are redeemed by the third week of the month, and 58% of food bank clients currently receiving SNAP benefits turn to food banks for assistance at least 6 months out of the year.
  • The average monthly SNAP benefit per person is $133.85, or less than $1.50 per person, per meal.
  • Only 55% of food insecure individuals are income-eligible for SNAP

source: http://feedingamerica.org/how-we-fight-hunger/programs-and-services/public-assistance-programs/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program/snap-myths-realities.aspx

What Congress is Proposing:

House Ag Committee cuts = Almost $21 billion over 10 years.

These cuts:

  • Limit state SNAP coordination with LIHEAP (heat and eat) payments;
    • 850,000 households, which include 1.7 million people, primarily in 15 states, could lose $90 in SNAP per month;
  • Restrict the state Categorical Eligibility option to change asset and gross income tests ($11.6 billion cut);
    • 1.8 million individuals per year could lose SNAP benefits (CBO);
    • 210,000 low-income children could lose free school meal access.
    • Eliminate state bonuses for effective SNAP operation ($480 million cut).
  • Eliminate state bonuses for effective SNAP operation ($480 million cut).

Senate cut = $4.1 billion over 10 years.

The cut:  Limits state SNAP coordination with LIHEAP (heat and eat) payments.

source: http://frac.org/leg-act-center/farm-bill-2012/

Considering the fact that 49 million Americans are food insecure– 16 million of which are children– the Farm Bill and its impact on SNAP has very real and serious consequences.

Even if politics aren’t your thing, the Farm Bill affects ALL Americans.  We all gotta eat, right?

June 20, 2013 at 3:24 pm Leave a comment

My AmeriCorps Experience Thusfar…

See the original post on the No Kid Hungry blog, here

It is National AmeriCorps Week.  To celebrate, No Kid Hungry is highlighting the work of Cooking Matters National Direct AmeriCorps Members throughout the country.

alexa americorps

Alexa Eisenberg is our current AmeriCorps member.  Alexa was born and raised in southeast Michigan and has recently moved to Detroit, where she loves exploring new places and meeting new people.  She coordinates classes, oversees social media, and works on volunteer recruitment.  Although her interest in food systems is broad, she is particularly passionate about the food justice issues that face Detroit. In 2012 she earned her Bachelor’s from the University of Michigan in Environmental Sciences and Communications with a focus on urban sustainability. Upon graduation, Alexa joined the Cooking Matters team at the Gleaners Food Bank in Detroit, Michigan.  She loves working for Cooking Matters and feels proud to be a part of the Gleaners team.

I am currently in my fifth month of service as the Cooking Matters AmeriCorps member for the Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan. As my first professional endeavor after college, this position with Gleaners gives me a wonderful introduction to employment, and may be the beginning of a meaningful career in public health.  This experience has furthered my interest the connection between food justice and preventative health care for diet-related illnesses including obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Each day I am glad to go to work, knowing that my time and effort is spent working to improve the health of others.

My favorite part of the job is my regular interaction with the communities of Detroit.  I grew up in the Detroit suburbs and have a strong affinity for the city, but a lot to learn.  Coordinating classes for Cooking Matters gives me the opportunity to spend time in parts of the city I would not typically find myself, interacting with Detroiters I would not otherwise come to know. Detroit is a city of strong, independent, and loyal citizens that want what is best for their families and their communities

Healthy food options are scarce in many areas of Detroit. Cooking Matters empowers Detroiters with the skills necessary to make healthy choices when options are limited. The ability to read food labels, understand how to prepare fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables, and how to meal plan and shop with a list may seem trivial, but can greatly impact food choices made by individuals on an everyday basis.  By teaching participants that it is possible to prepare nutritious, affordable meals that their families will enjoy, Cooking Matters can help individuals make real, lasting changes to their diets.  My experience with Cooking Matters has shown me that in addition to food access, food education is a vital component of community food security, particularly in Detroit.

Until working with Cooking Matters, I never realized the potential for nutrition and culinary education in empowering families to fight hunger and lead healthier lifestyles.  It is often the case that participants want to provide healthy meals for their family, but don’t know where to start.  I recently gave a Shopping Matters tour to a single, working mother of six who was looking to change her family’s eating habits.  She found it difficult enough to get food on the table, let alone fresh fruits and vegetables. We discussed money saving tips like buying whole foods in bulk, utilizing frozen and canned options, and choosing whole grains to keep her kids fuller for longer.  We brainstormed quick, healthy meals she could make after a long day of work to replace the ramen noodles her kids were used to eating.  Armed with the ability to read food labels and compare prices, she left the store that day not only with a bag of groceries, but the confidence to make informed decisions and change her life.

My experience as an AmeriCorps member thus far has filled me with a sense of gratitude and purpose that I could not have imagined before.  I look forward to the rest of my service, knowing that it will undoubtedly bring new challenges and opportunities for growth.

March 12, 2013 at 5:11 pm Leave a comment

Volunteers Needed Throughout the Holidays

We at Cooking Matters know how busy our volunteers are, especially around the holidays.  We understand that obligations to your loved ones, in addition to your professional obligations,  fill up a majority of your time.  Still, Cooking Matters continues to conduct classes throughout the November and December months.  Most likely due to our volunteers’ increasingly busy schedules at this time, we are in somewhat desperate need of your time.

We urge you to look at the upcoming class schedule, and although consistency is our priority, please contact Rebecca even if you know you will miss one, or even a few of the classes.

We value your time and effort.  If you can fit it in your busy schedule, please find the time to give back this holiday season in any way you can!

November 1, 2012 at 10:52 am Leave a comment

Cooking Matters Satellite Programming

Michigan State University Extension Districts

Did you know that Cooking Matters takes place not only in Southeast Michigan, but throughout the entire state? Yes, even the U.P.!

Since Cooking Matters partnered with Gleaners in 1995, the program has continued to expand.  In order to keep up with the demand for Cooking Matters, it became necessary to create satellites: offices throughout Michigan that coordinate classes within their communities.  With the help of our dedicated CM staff (cough, cough–Sarah Mills) and our satellite partners, our capacity for outreach has grown like wildfire over the past two years.

Here is an overview of who our satellites are and how much they have accomplished:

1.  Manistee Community Kitchen

  • 16 classes completed
  • 164 graduates

2. SEEDS

  • 7 classes completed
  • 63 graduates

3. Michigan Nutrition Network Partners

4. Michigan State University Extension

  • Includes 12 districts that, together, extend Cooking Mattersprogramming throughout the entire state!
  • 54 classes completed
  • 540 total graduates

5.  Henry Ford Health System Generation with Promise

  • 50 classes completed
  • 504 total graduates

Together, Cooking Matters Satellites throughout the state have completed over 139 classes and graduated over 1400 participants!

October 8, 2012 at 9:35 am Leave a comment

Goodbye Vani, You Will Be Missed!

 

As you may have heard, everyone’s favorite volunteer coordinator-Vani Sohikian- is leaving Cooking Matters.  Without a doubt, this qualifies as a grade-A bummer, but I can’t help but be proud of Vani and wish her well on her way.  Vani is known by Cooking Matters staff as an exceptionally hard worker and a true pleasure to have in the office.  To our volunteers, Vani is their warm welcome to the program, the go-to contact and a consistent reminder that their work really counts (and to sign up for classes).  It only takes a few minutes in one of Vani’s classes to see how much she really cares about this program and its participants.   Her ability to connect with and engage participants is something to be admired, and her impact here has been profound.  OK, enough praise- it will go to her head.  Let’s find out what the future holds for our friend and coworker!

Where is your new job and what will you be doing there?

The Institute for Population Health in Detroit.  It is replacing the Detroit Health Department, which is very exciting.  I will be working as a nutritionist for the WIC (women, infants and children) department.

What do you look forward to at your new job?

I look forward to working with the individuals who benefit from the services provided by the institute and learning more about public health services offered to Detroit citizens.

What was your favorite type of class?

Adults.  I like the older ladies.

Do you have a favorite CM recipe?

I have many.  I love the apple crisp and the southwestern black eyed pea and corn salad.  I also like the kid’s cucumber sandwiches and the peanut butter and banana pockets…

Favorite fruit? 

figs.

Favorite veggie?

Brussel sprouts!

Favorite memory?

It’s so hard to pick!  I have a few favorite moments. One of them is when one of my participants in Pontiac on the last day of class said that she had gone to the doctor that morning and her blood pressure, which had always been a problem, was completely normal because she was changing her diet.   Another favorite moment of mine was when I was helping Jake with a demo for kids, and we made the tuna boats, the kids were like, “this is the best thing I’ve EVER had!”.  It was funny because kids usually hate tuna!

What will you miss most about CM?

The staff! Also working with volunteers and learning new things all the time.  I will also miss those moments when you know you’re really getting through to participants.

Finish this sentence: Cooking Matters because:

We all have to eat!

Thank You Vani, for all your hard work.  You will be missed.

And don’t worry, she’ll be back to volunteer as soon as she is settled in her new job!

October 4, 2012 at 9:48 am Leave a comment

Eat Better, Eat Together with your family this October

Editor’s note: We welcome popular mom blogger Bree Glenn to our blog today as she writes about national Eat Better, Eat Together month.

The hubs and I make a concerted effort to eat dinner together, with the kid, every night. With both of us working full time, that sometimes doesn’t happen. But, I’d say we hit the mark at least 95% of the time.

Being a mom and wife who works full time sometimes makes it difficult to get a hot, healthy meal on the table. Lucky for me, I have a wonderful husband who is well-versed in the kitchen and often jumps in, when I can’t be there to get it done.

Often times, I’ll have the hubs and/or the kid assist me with food prep. It’s a great way to cut down on the time it takes to prepare a meal, and it brings us all together in a fun activity. Another way I save time is to use the Crockpot.

The Crockpot is an invaluable device for busy families.

By cooking a meal for us to eat together, I’m not only ensuring we eat a healthy meal, but I’m also ensuring I get some time with my guys to just sit down together over a meal and talk about our days – about how work was for the grownups and how school was for the kid. It serves as a way for us to connect, in our busy, busy lives. I know this will only become more and more important as the kid gets older.

When I was a kid, eating dinner together as a family was a big deal. I can’t imagine a life of not sitting down, at a table and eating at least one meal a day with my family.

Making time to eat together as a family is not only important to the family unit, but according to Washington State University when families eat together:

· Children do better in school and have fewer behavior problems.
· Teenagers are less likely to use alcohol or drugs.
· Communication between children and adults improves.
· Children understand their family’s values and traditions.
· Meals are more nutritious and healthful.

October is National Eat Better, Eat Together Month. I encourage you to click here for more information, recipes and ideas on how you and your family can start the tradition!


Bree Glenn blogs on The Mom with Moxie about living life, to the fullest and finding humor, in life’s little – and not so little – messes. She’s a wife, mom and PR exec trying to juggle family, work, life and everything else. As someone who has dealt with health issues, weight issues, financial issues, job issues, etc., she feels she can provide a unique point-of-view, on life – and how to live it to the fullest, despite whatever trials life may throw at you. She’s also an avid supporter of social media and enjoys connecting with online friends and meeting new ones through Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Bree and her husband, MenDale, live in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan, with their son, “The Kid.”

October 1, 2012 at 9:20 am 2 comments

Shopping Matters teaches participants how to read food labels, use unit pricing

Volunteer nutrition educator Lindsey Snyder and her participants from Mercy Primary Care get ready to shop.

Mary Bailey, Cooking Matters for Adults participant at Mercy Primary Care, has her shopping routine down. She always has a list and makes sure to eat something before going to the store so she doesn’t shop hungry.

But even the savvy shopper picked up a few new tips and tricks after taking the grocery store tour with fellow Cooking Matters classmates as well as Shopping Matters participants on July 10 at Walmart in Sterling Heights.

“I was not really savvy with unit prices before,” she says.

While shopping, she said she compared the unit prices of the Great Value cooking spray vs. Crisco and realized Great Value was the better deal.

As a participant in the class, she also learned how to cook healthier. “I learned how to cook without a lot of salt and oils. Now I make my own seasonings.”

Her cart was full of whole foods, such as cantaloupe, cottage cheese, lemon and limes, squash and onions, brown rice and salmon in her cart. Using some of the planning skills taught in the previous lesson, she swapped out the broccoli and spinach that was on her list for the available and more budget-friendly squash.

Mary Bailey was already a savvy shopper but learned how to use unit prices to find the best bargains.

Another skill the tour aims to teach participants is reading labels. For Shopping Matters participant Jennifer Morris, the Detroiter learned to pay more attention to the products. She primarily eats a vegetarian diet and had her cart full of dried beans and veggies to make a meatless chili, she said. The idea to make chili came to her after walking around with her group. She also said the tour helped her make more informed choices about which foods to get.

Angela Davenport, who was in the Shopping Matters group, said the tour helped her make better choices.

“Before I was just grabbing what I saw … (the tour) was very good,” she said.

These ladies, along with about 10 other participants, were able to apply their newfound budgeting skills, thanks to a donation of $150 gift cards by the store.

Walmart in Sterling Heights donated to Cooking Matters Michigan $150 in gift cards for the participants’ $10 challenge.

“As a company, we’ve always had good relationships with Gleaners” and other community organizations, said store manager Rob Aquilina. He said each store works with specific agencies in their areas to give back to the community.

When asked if Walmart would do more tours with Shopping Matters, he said, “I’d love to be more involved and see what we can do.” He added Walmart is committed to the food bank, which aligns with one of the company’s three main values: fighting hunger, education and work force development.

July 13, 2012 at 10:49 am Leave a comment

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USDA Statement

This material was partially funded by the State of Michigan with federal funds from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by way of the Michigan Nutrition Network at the Michigan Fitness Foundation. This work is supported in part by the Michigan Department of Human Services, under contract number ADMIN-10-99011. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Michigan Fitness Foundation or the Michigan Department of Human Services. In accordance with Federal law and USDA policy, these institutions are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion, political beliefs or disability. To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272 (voice) or (202) 720- 6382 (TTY). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program provides nutrition assistance to people with low income. It can help you buy nutritious foods for a better diet. To find out more contact the toll free Michigan Food Assistance Program Hotline at (855) ASK-MICH. Space-Limited USDA/DHS/MNN Credit Statement This material was partially funded by the State of Michigan with federal funds from the United States Department of Agriculture Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by way of the Michigan Nutrition Network at the Michigan Fitness Foundation. These institutions are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion, political beliefs or disability. People who need help buying nutritious food for a better diet call the toll free Michigan Food Assistance Program Hotline: (855) ASK-MICH.

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