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Posts Tagged ‘low-income’

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Photo: Matthew Morris
Boston Medical Center’s rooftop farm, spanning 2,658 square feet, is part of a mission to keep patients, especially low-income patients, healthy. 

For many years, visionary physicians and staff at Boston Medical Center (BMC) have been taking a holistic approach to caring for patients — more often than not, desperately poor patients. If a child had asthma from conditions in a suboptimal apartment, BMC enlisted pro bono lawyers to get the landlord to meet legal obligations. If new Americans needed help understanding the forms they were supposed to fill out, BMC rounded up translators and guides. It didn’t have to be medical forms: people could get help with any kind of form.

The story below shows BMC’s ongoing efforts to ensure patients living in food deserts get decent nourishment. Doctors started writing prescriptions for farmers markets. Now they’re supporting a move to grow healthful food on the hospital’s roof.

Lindsay Campbell has the story at Modern Farmer.

“Carrie Golden believes the only reason she’s diabetes free is that she has access to fresh, locally grown food.

“A few years after the Boston resident was diagnosed with prediabetes, she was referred to Boston Medical Center’s Preventative Food Pantry as someone who was food insecure. The food pantry is a free food resource for low-income patients.

“ ‘You become diabetic because when you don’t have good food to eat, you eat whatever you can to survive,’ Golden says. …

“Three years ago, the hospital launched a rooftop farm to grow fresh produce for the pantry. The farm has produced 6,000 pounds of food a year, with 3,500 pounds slated for the pantry. The rest of its produce goes to the hospital’s cafeteria, patients, a teaching kitchen and an in-house portable farmers market. … The facility’s 2,658-square-foot garden houses more than 25 crops, organically grown in a milk crate system.

“ ‘Food is medicine. That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing,’ says David Maffeo, the hospital’s senior director of support services. ‘Most urban environments are food deserts. It’s hard to get locally grown food and I think it’s something that we owe to our patients and our community.’

“Lindsay Allen, a farmer who has been managing the rooftop oasis since its inception, says her farm’s produce is being used for preventative care as well as in reactive care. … What people put in their bodies has a direct link to their health she says, adding that hospitals have a responsibility to give their patients better food. …

“In addition to running the farm, Allen teaches a number of farming workshops to educate patients, employees and their families on how to grow their own food. The hospital’s teaching kitchen employs a number of food technicians and dieticians who offer their expertise to patients on how they can make meals with the local produce they’re given.

“This is part of the medical center’s objective to not only give patients good food, but also provide them the tools to lead a healthy life. Golden, who has used the pantry for the last three years, says the experience has changed the way she looks at food.

“ ‘I’ve gone many days with nothing to eat, so I know what that feels like when you get something like the food pantry that gives you what you need to stay healthy,’ she says. ‘I appreciate all the people that put their heart into working in the garden. If only they knew how we really need them.’ ” Perhaps they do.

More at Modern Farmer.

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Photo: Year Up
Ana Vargas took part in the Year Up program, which helps many young adults from low-income backgrounds earn college credit, gain skills, and land jobs after serious internships with partner companies.

This was a great idea when it started in 2000, and it’s a great and successful idea now that it has spread to many US cities. It’s all about helping motivated young adults who can’t afford college to get a decent foothold in the job world.

Allison Hagan writes for the Boston Globe, “When Gerald Chertavian started Year Up in 2000, the nonprofit set out to help 22 young adults from low-income Boston neighborhoods earn a decent wage.

“The organization has come a long way from that modest beginning. A new study has found that 4,100 Year Up participants from 21 cities across the country are benefiting from the largest earnings gain associated with any workforce program in US history.

“The research was part of the Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education project sponsored by the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families. It reported that Year Up group members earn 53 percent more than economically disadvantaged young adults who did not participate in the program. The findings said Year Up increased total hours worked by three to four per week and graduates earned nearly $4 more per hour than members of a control group that were part of the study.

“Under Year Up, young adults from low-income backgrounds — ranging in age from 18 to 24 — with a GED or high school diploma can earn college credit while gaining skills in areas such as information technology, quality assurance, and testing applications to assess functionality. Upon completing the yearlong program, graduates earn on average $17.41 an hour, which amounts to $34,000 per year and triumphs over the state’s $11 minimum wage.

“Researchers analyzed Year Up alongside eight other workplace development programs. … It ‘absolutely shows that we can enable people to lift themselves out of a situation of poverty and into a good job, and therefore should be investing in people and seeing them as assets instead of social liabilities,’ [Chertavian] said.

“Year Up students spend six months learning an array of skills such as time management, networking, and leadership. The next six months are devoted to an internship with one of Year Up’s corporate partners, which include 40 Boston-based companies every year. The money that affiliated corporations pay to get interns covers 59 percent of the program’s operating costs, according to Year Up. Combined with sponsorships and private donations, that leaves only 2 percent of the national program’s $150 million budget to public funding. …

“Bank of America Corp. has hired 690 Year Up interns, while State Street Corporation has hired 700, according to Chertavian. State Street reports that it converts 60 percent of Year Up interns into full-time employees.

“ ‘Year Up has opened a new talent pipeline for us that we’ve been able to take advantage of with terrific results,’ said Mike Scannell, senior vice president and president of the financial firm’s philanthropic arm the State Street Foundation.”

More here.

Some years ago I interviewed Year Up founder Gerald Chertavian for a government magazine that hadn’t yet learned to post its articles in html. Here is a pdf. The thing that struck me most about this man is that he was so grateful for being mentored in the urban high school he attended that he volunteered for Big Brother throughout his own college years and then, after selling a successful company at a fairly young age, sought a way to take mentoring to scale.

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Photo: Pearl Mak/NPR
Girard Children’s Community Garden in Washington, D.C. was created on a vacant lot and is now a thriving community space for neighborhood kids.

Most of us know that spending time in nature makes us feel good, but many city children have few opportunities to find that out for themselves. A chain of community gardens in Washington, DC, provides anecdotal evidence that green space reduces stress, and now a controlled Philadelphia study gives more scientific proof that that is exactly what’s going on.

Rhitu Chatterjee reports at National Public Radio, “Growing up in Washington, D.C.’s Columbia Heights neighborhood, Rebecca Lemos-Otero says her first experience with nature came in her late teens when her mother started a community garden.

” ‘I was really surprised and quickly fell in love,’ she recalls. The garden was peaceful, and a ‘respite’ from the neighborhood, which had high crime rates, abandoned lots and buildings, she says.

“Inspired by that experience, years later, Lemos-Otero, 39, started City Blossoms, a local nonprofit that has about 15 children-focused community green spaces across Washington, D.C. She wanted to give kids from minority and low-income communities easy access to some greenery. …

” ‘Having access to a bit of nature, having a tree to read under, or, having a safe space like one of our gardens, definitely makes a huge difference on their stress levels,’ says Lemos-Otero. ‘The feedback that we’ve gotten from a lot of young people is that it makes them feel a little lighter.’

“Now a group of researchers from Philadelphia has published research that supports her experience. The study, published Friday in JAMA Network Open, found that having access to even small green spaces can reduce symptoms of depression for people who live near them, especially in low-income neighborhoods.

“Previous research has shown that green spaces are associated with better mental health, but this study is ‘innovative,’ says Rachel Morello-Frosch, a professor at the department of environmental science, policy and management at the University of California, Berkeley, who wasn’t involved in the research.

” ‘To my knowledge, this is the first intervention to test — like you would in a drug trial — by randomly allocating a treatment to see what you see,’ adds Morello-Frosch. Most previous studies to look into this have been mostly observational.

“Philadelphia was a good laboratory for exploring the impact of green space on mental health because it has many abandoned buildings and vacant lots, often cluttered with trash, says Eugenia South, an assistant professor at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and an author of the study. …

“South and her colleagues wanted to see if the simple task of cleaning and greening these empty lots could have an impact on residents’ mental health and well-being. So, they randomly selected 541 vacant lots and divided them into three groups. They collaborated with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society for the cleanup work.

“The lots in one group were left untouched — this was the control group. The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society cleaned up the lots in a second group, removing the trash. And for a third group, they cleaned up the trash and existing vegetation, and planted new grass and trees. The researchers called this third set the ‘vacant lot greening’ intervention.”

You can read what happened at National Public Radio, here.

Photo: Pearl Mak/NPR
Girard Children’s Community Garden will be celebrating 10 years this year. The garden signs are in both English and Spanish.

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Restaurants are having trouble finding trained workers, and many low-income people have trouble getting themselves qualified for a job.

Enter the Culinary Arts Training Program at the Salvation Army’s Kroc Center in Dorchester, Mass.

Sacha Pfeiffer writes at the Boston Globe, “A recent business survey found that the state’s dining sector is facing its worst labor shortage in more than three decades. That survey, by the Federal Reserve, called the staffing situation a ‘crisis,’ and Boston-area restaurants of all types report that hiring at every level, from dishwashers to chefs, is a major challenge.

“But those industry woes pose an opportunity for graduates of free culinary training programs offered by the Salvation Army, Pine Street Inn, Lazarus House Ministries, Community Servings, UTEC, Roca, and other local nonprofits, which have become a small but valuable source of employees for the region’s food service industry. …

“At [November’s] culinary graduation at the Salvation Army’s Kroc Corps Community Center in Dorchester, for example, several prospective employers attended the event to canvass for possible hires. …

“Aimed at low-income students, the programs generally offer basic training in cooking techniques, knife skills, food terminology, menu planning, nutrition, and kitchen safety standards. Many also teach ‘soft skills,’ such as resume writing and effective interviewing, and job-readiness, like the importance of punctuality. …

“Most also provide job placement assistance at not only restaurants, but school cafeterias, hospital kitchens, nursing homes, sporting venues, corporate cafes, and large food supply companies such as Aramark and Sodexo.

“ ‘There are more jobs than we have students for,’ said Paul O’Connell, the former chef/co-owner of Chez Henri in Cambridge who is now culinary director at the New England Center for Arts & Technology, which offers a 16-week culinary training course. … And even low-level jobs in the food sector can lead to lasting careers.

“ ‘The beauty of our industry is if people have a really good attitude and want to learn, they can go from the dish room to the boardroom and everywhere in between,’ said Robert Luz, chief executive of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, which collaborates with many nonprofit programs.

“ ‘I’ve seen an incredible number of people grow their career from line cook to assistant kitchen manager to kitchen manager to chef and beyond,’ Luz added, ‘so it’s the road to middle income for a lot of people.” More here.

Photo: Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff
A graduate of the Culinary Arts Training Program at the Salvation Army’s Kroc Center shows off his certificate.

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A certain community organization that believes in the importance of affordable housing also believes in the importance of community. That is why it fosters numerous community-building initiatives, including the new Sankofa farm and market.

Leigh Vincola at ecoRI reports from Providence.

“If you have traveled around the city’s West End this winter, you may have noticed a number of buildings going up rather quickly. Wondering what they are and who they belong to?

“The answer is Sankofa, a Ghanaian word meaning to go back, get what is yours and make positive progress in the future. The Sankofa Initiative of the West Elmwood Housing Development Corporation (WEHDC) is doing just this.

“The initiative was born in 2011, when the WEHDC completed an extensive survey of West End residents that determined their primary concerns centered around health and food. In a predominately low-income neighborhood — 32.5 percent of households live below the poverty level — the survey determined that for many the West End is a food-insecure neighborhood. There isn’t enough access to fresh food, and particularly food that is culturally relevant to the immigrant populations that make up the community, primarily Central American, West African and Southeast Asian. …

“Sankofa is a response to these needs, and has three main elements: an affordable housing development, a large-scale community garden and a weekly World Market. The $15 million project is funded by Rhode Island Housing and work is underway on all aspects.” Read up on the amazing range of positive efforts here.

According to the market’s Facebook page, things will get going for spring with a “pop-up market May 7th, from 12pm to 4pm at Knight Memorial Library on Elmwood Ave. There will be art, bath and hair products, handmade jewelry, homemade candles, fresh food, FREE seeds, henna, giant bubbles and much more.”

Photo: Sankofa Initiative
The Sankofa World Market is a local farmers market with international flavor.

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The Providence-based Capital Good Fund, which helps low-income folks get on their feet financially, has been testing an interesting fund-raising idea. Participating artists donate to the Capital Good Fund half the proceeds of a work that they sell through the fund’s platform. The art offerings change every few weeks. I include one example below, and there are more at https://squareup.com/market/cgfund. The selections feature a range of styles. Some works are representational, others impressionistic or abstract.

The organization’s website explains its mission: “Capital Good Fund is a nonprofit, certified Community Development Financial Institution that takes a holistic approach to fighting poverty. We offer small loans and one-on-one Financial & Health Coaching to hard-working families in America. Our mission is to provide equitable financial services that create pathways out of poverty.” More here and here.

The Rhode Island Foundation posts at its own blog about its latest partnership with the Capital Good Fund, an initiative designed to overcome the incentives that drive people to costly payday lenders. Read about that here.

Art: Carol C. Young
Barn on Robin Hill, 11″ x 11″ Giclée, limited edition signed print

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Everything old is new again. Here’s a story about a type of teaching that is coming back in vogue.

Peter Balonon-Rosen writes for WBUR radio, “Closing the gap between the achievements of low-income students and their peers is such a formidable challenge that some experts say it cannot be done without eliminating poverty itself. By the time children enter kindergarten, there is already a significant skills gap across socioeconomic lines that manifests in an income achievement gap that has widened dramatically over the past 25 years.

“In Revere [MA], a high-poverty school district, school officials have turned internally to raise outcomes for kids in poverty. Their notion is that school success can begin with a successful teaching model.

“ ‘What is this?’ kindergartner Thea Scata asks. She taps the picture of a rabbit with a wooden pointer and looks to the three other girls seated at her table.

“The group of four kindergartners at Revere’s A.C. Whelan Elementary School is learning about the letter ‘R’ — writing its shape and reviewing words that begin with the letter.

“ ‘Bunny!’ replies Bryanna Mccarthy.

“ ‘No, what’s the first sound? “R”— rabbit,’ Scata says to the group. …

“Whelan is one of 43 public elementary schools in the state that Bay State Reading Institute (BSRI), a Holliston-based education nonprofit organization, partners with to implement this teaching model into Massachusetts schools.”

Said “Kimberlee Clark, a first grade teacher at Whelan, ‘I’m really able to target those that need to be challenged and go above and beyond and I’m able to work with those students that need the extra support to get onto grade level.’ …

“Core to BSRI’s approach is independent student learning. As teachers work closely with small groups of students, the other students are expected to work by themselves on separate tasks.

“ ‘Students then own a piece of the learning,’ said Ed Moscovitch, chairman and co-founder of BSRI. ‘They learn how to learn from an independent perspective.’

“ ‘When they’re working together it’s not so much that students are teaching students, but they’re discovering and coming to the knowledge together,’ said Lenore Diliegro, a fifth grade teacher at Whelan.” More here.

Photo: Peter Balonon-Rosen/WBUR
Thea Scata, left, leads a group of kindergarten peers at A.C. Whelan Elementary School in Revere.

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A Framingham, Mass., couple who run a restaurant have decided to do their bit to combat hunger in their town.

Bella English has the story at the Boston Globe. “The Foodie Cafe is a 24-seater in a factory-and-warehouse section of Framingham. Workers stop in for coffee and eggs or for a lunch of homemade soups and breads, artisan sandwiches, and cupcakes with killer icing.

“But David and Alicia Blais, who own and run it, feed more than just their paying customers. They also aim to feed all of the city’s hungry. A chalkboard in the cafe proclaims: ‘Thanks to you (our wonderful customers), we have fed over 890 people in need this November. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!’

“About three years ago, the couple opened the Foodie Cafe — they loved its huge kitchen — after selling a Walpole restaurant they had run for several years. …

” ‘There was no sense of food insecurity in Walpole on the scale found in Framingham,’’ says Alicia, 55. “All you have to do is drive around, and you can see the need. …’

“Devout Christians, the couple went to hear a pastor speak about his street ministry and when he mentioned that he always runs out of sandwiches for the hungry, they decided to help. …

“ ‘They’ve been tremendous to us,’ says Jim Bauchman, founder of Framingham Street Ministries. “I can’t thank them enough. I see it as a partnership.” …

“For them, feeding the hungry is a matter of philosophy and faith. ‘I feel that people should have the necessities of life,’ says Alicia. ‘People should be sheltered. People should have food. We have a restaurant. We make food. It’s not rocket science.’ ”

More here.

Photo: Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff
Inside Alicia Blais assembles sandwiches.

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With increasing numbers of Americans experiencing food insecurity, it seems like an appropriate time of year to be grateful that at least there are many goodhearted people managing food banks and community meals and doing what they can.

If you know of anyone in New England who could use the help just now, or if you want to volunteer or donate, this partial list may be a good starting place.

Rhode Island

http://www.rifoodbank.org
“The Rhode Island Community Food Bank works to end hunger in our state by providing food to people in need. We envision a day when all Rhode Islanders have access to nutritious food and a healthy lifestyle.

Massachusetts

East
http://Gbfb.org
“The Greater Boston Food Bank’s mission is to End Hunger Here. Our objective is to distribute enough food to provide at least one meal a day to those in need.”

West
https://www.foodbankwma.org/
“We are fortunate to live in such a special part of the country, allowing for the growth and harvest of a multitude of fresh fruits and vegetables. As this harvest season comes to an end, we have received more than 266,800 pounds of fresh produce — including potatoes, lettuce, carrots, apples and squash — donated by local farms this year.”

Vermont

http://www.vtfoodbank.org/FindFoodShelf.aspx
“If you are looking for a place to have a Thanksgiving meal or to volunteer to help cook, serve or clean-up, download our list of Thanksgiving meals.”

New Hampshire

http://www.nhfoodbank.org/
“Need Food? We Can Help. If you are in need of assistance, use our search to locate the nearest food pantry or soup kitchen to you. Search by your town or county, or view all of our partner agencies.”

Maine

http://www.foodpantries.org/st/maine
“There are several food pantries and food banks in the Maine. With help from users like you we have compiled a list of some. If you know of a listing that is not included here please submit new food pantries to our database.”

Connecticut

http://www.ctfoodbank.org/
“The mission of Connecticut Food Bank is to provide nutritious food to people in need. We distribute food and other resources to nearly 700 local emergency food assistance programs in six of Connecticut’s eight counties: Fairfield, Litchfield, Middlesex, New Haven, New London and Windham.”

harvest

 

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Boston Medical Center is an inner-city hospital that takes a special interest in immigrants and the poor. It also treats patients holistically, offering a referral service for problems that get in the way of good health.

With the support of the City of Boston, Boston Medical Center has added a new item to its medicine cabinet: bike sharing.

Catalina Gaitan writes at the Boston Globe, “The City of Boston has announced a program to subsidize bike-sharing memberships for low-income residents, in partnership with Boston Medical Center.

“The program, ‘Prescribe-a-Bike,’ would allow doctors at Boston Medical Center to prescribe low-income patients with a yearlong membership to Hubway, a bike-share program, for only $5.

“Participants would be allowed unlimited number of trips on the bicycles, provided they use them for 30 minutes or less at a time. They will also be given a free helmet, the mayor’s office said in a joint statement with Boston Medical Center.

“ ‘Obesity is a significant and growing health concern for our city, particularly among low-income Boston residents,’ said Kate Walsh, chief executive of Boston Medical Center, in the statement. …

“Statistics show that 1 in 4 low-income residents in Boston is obese, almost twice the rate of higher-income residents, the statement said.

“To qualify for the prescription, participants must be 16 years or older and be enrolled in some form of public assistance, or have a household income of no more than four times the poverty level.”

More here.

bikes-in-boston

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The Christian Science Monitor recently ran a story by Bryan Kay about an ongoing  community service project.

“Not even the recent furlough of federal workers was enough to snuff out the latest community outreach effort of Masjid al Islam mosque in Dallas.

“On a weekend in early October, the mosque was participating in a national initiative known as the Day of Dignity, an annual event during which mosques feed, clothe, and equip people living in poverty. But federal workers who had been scheduled to attend to speak about the details of the Affordable Care Act …  had been forced to cancel because of a partial federal government shutdown.

“It was a blow to the mosque’s boosters, says Muhammad Abdul-Jami, treasurer of Masjid al Islam and coordinator of the Day of Dignity event. But it didn’t deter them from pursuing the same purpose they have had for the last several years, he says: aiding homeless people … .

“Masjid al Islam is in an area where the homeless are a ubiquitous sight. … Because of the great need every weekend, the mosque seeks to do what the Day of Dignity event, organized in conjunction with the national charity Islamic Relief USA, does on an annual basis. Through its Beacon of Light community center, Masjid al Islam feeds approximately 300 individuals in need on Saturdays and Sundays each week, Mr. Abdul-Jami estimates. That’s more than 15,000 meals per year, paid for with donations from individuals and other mosques and served by volunteers, he says. …

” ‘There are millions of Muslims in this country who are very regular people, people who [other] Americans might consider much like them,’ Abdul-Jami says. …  ‘These events help us showcase that we are concerned about the rest of humanity, not just wanting to help Muslims.’ ”

Read more here.

Photo: Walid Ajaj

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I like to listen to a jazz radio station out of Worcester, WICN.

The other day the announcer mentioned an effort funded by TD Bank’s charitable foundation to collect old school instruments and refurbish them for a new generation.

If you live near Worcester and have been wondering what to do with those drums and violins, consider dropping them off at 50 Portland St. If you don’t live near Worcester, you might consider looking for a similar program in your town — or even starting one. Other TD Banks might help out. Banks in general can be good sources of such community support.

Here’s what the website says: “WICN 90.5, the NPR jazz station in Worcester, and Worcester Public Schools continue their collaboration called Instrumental Partners. The program collects used musical instruments from Central New England residents for the benefit of public school students. ‘We’re approaching 100 instruments donated so far!’ said WICN General Manager Gerry Weston. Instrumental Partners began in 2012.

“All instruments are accepted: brass, wind, string, percussion, acoustic, electric, etc. Worcester Public Schools Performing Arts Liaison Lisa Leach said, ‘We are very excited about this collaboration and putting instruments in the hands of young people who are unable to purchase or rent them, but still have the desire and work ethic to make music an integral part of their developing lives.’ ” More.

If you want to call first, the number is 508 752 0700.

12/27/13 Update. Today I took the oboe and the alto sax below to WICN for the Worcester Public Schools music program. Now a new generation of children will play them.

school-instruments-sax=oboe

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Take two tomatoes and call me in the morning.

***

The University of South Carolina has developed a manual for health centers that want to collaborate with farmers markets on health, even writing food prescriptions for patients who need to improve their eating habits.

The manual’s authors, Darcy Freedman and Kassandra Alia, write in the intro of their manual:

“Farmers’ markets have grown in popularity in recent years as a place for improving health, increasing economic growth for local agriculture, and building communities. …

“Though the rebirth of farmers’ markets represents an exciting movement in the United States, data reveal that the benefits of farmers’ markets are not evenly distributed. Communities with the greatest need for farmers’ markets, for instance, are least likely to have them.

“In the present manual, we describe an approach for developing a health center‐based farmers’ market. Health centers, in particular federally qualified health centers or FQHCs, were identified as a strategic place to locate farmers’ markets because they may be located in food desert contexts (i.e., low‐income communities with low‐access to healthy food retailers). Additionally, locating at a health center makes an explicit connection between farmers’ market and preventive medicine.” More.

Photo: Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

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Shawn and Laura Sears were touched by inner-city kids with too many strikes against them and invited a few for an outdoor camping experience. The outing was so satisfying all around that they just kept doing it.

Marilyn Jones has the story at the Christian Science Monitor.

“Leaving college with liberal arts degrees – his in psychology, hers in geology – Shawn and Laura applied to Teach for America and were eventually placed to teach in one of the poorest regions in the country.

“Today, celebrating 14 years together (getting married along the way in 2004), they’ve seen the seeds sown during their experiences in Mississippi grow to fruition in the founding of Vida Verde Nature Education, a nonprofit outdoor education camp they’ve now run for 11 years.

“Located on northern California’s spectacular coast between San Francisco and Santa Cruz, this free camp for children from low-income families has served more than 7,000 kids from the inner cities of Oakland, East Palo Alto, San Francisco, and San Jose.

” ‘We help them let go of much of the negativity they often carry,’ Shawn says. ‘It’s nonstop fun, and they get to just be kids for a few days. Three days later, they’re transformed.’ ”

Read more.

Tony Avelar/Special to the Christian Science Monitor
Laura and Shawn Sears founded Vida Verde to give groups of students three days of exposure to and hands-on experience in the outdoors.

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A while back I watched the movie The Little Red Truck, a documentary by producer Pam Voth and director Rob Whitehair highlighting the work of the Missoula Children’s Theatre. It was a moving experience.

The Missoula (Montana) Children’s Theatre travels by truck from city to city all over America to put on productions with children in low-income urban and rural areas. The transformation of some of these children in the week it takes to produce a full-scale, one-hour musical is something to see, with many insecure children discovering talents that no one, including the children themselves, knew they had.

For kids who have never seen a play and have no place to rehearse — nor any props or costumes or sets other than what the theater company can pack into the truck —  putting on a production seems unimaginable.

As the movie unfolds, you see how doing the unimaginable builds self-confidence, and generates both laughter and ideas about possible futures. It’s not about growing up to be actors. It’s about seeing that there are options, and starting to think differently.

And in case anyone is more interested in the academic skills boosted through theater, this Education Week article makes that case. Not a bad case to be made, but it’s the magic of Queen Mab that speaks to me.

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