Tag: food stamps

Food insecurity rates remain high in the U.S.

According to a new report, high rates of food insecurity in the U.S. following the recession have yet to come back down, in spite of rising employment rates. (City Lab, 4/22)

Food insecurity in America is an issue that can be hard to see. It is not synonymous with poverty: two-thirds of food-insecure households have incomes above the national poverty level, according to new data from The Hamilton Project. The same report also demonstrates that the way food insecurity is measured often masks the extent of the problem. Instances of food insecurity often arise suddenly and temporarily, and as a result are difficult to track from year to year.

– Following the recent Putting Racism on the Table session on mass incarceration, Graham McLaughlin of the Advisory Board Company and returning citizen and business owner Anthony Pleasant discuss their personal insights into the justice system and the many challenges facing returning citizens. (Daily, 4/25)

– While many residents living in neighborhoods with very limited access to quality, well-stocked stores would be glad to have the ability to order from fast online delivery retailers à la Amazon Prime, if they happen to live in a predominately black neighborhood, most will find that such services rarely extend to their neck of the woods. The pattern plays out in many metropolitan areas, including the Greater Washington region. (Bloomberg, 4/21)

HEALTH | Thousands Leave Maryland Prisons With Health Problems And No Coverage (NPR, 4/24)

ENVIRONMENTD.C. Public Housing Buildings Will Get Solar Panels as Part of Sustainability Project (WCP, 4/25)

– Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe recently signed an executive order restoring voting rights to around 200,000 convicted felons. (DCist, 4/22)

AudioThe Kojo Nnamdi Show explores the economic impact of changing demographics in Fairfax County and across the Washington region. (WAMU, 4/25)

–  The District has one of the highest rates of asthma in the U.S., counting many of its sufferers as lower-income children. Despite this fact, a planned homeless shelter in ward 5 is slated to open right near a bus garage, to the dismay of critics. (WaPo, 4/23)

–  D.C. Auditor: Summer Youth Employment Program Needs More Private-Sector Involvement, Yearly Independent Evaluation (WCP, 4/25)

PHILANTHROPY | In the movement toward creating more equitable communities, is philanthropy largely overlooking one potential solution – worker ownership? (Chronicle, 4/20)

It’s always a good day for a sandwich. Which of these have you tried?

– Ciara

The up and downs of D.C.’s health report

The United Health Foundation’s new annual health rankings report finds good news for the District as the city is below the national average on rates of obesity, excessive drinking, and poor physical health. However, a number of other areas still show room for significant improvement (WCP, 12/10):

Specifically, the report finds that 21.7 percent of D.C. residents are obese as compared with 29.6 percent nationally; 16.4 percent smoke as compared with 18.1 percent nationally; and 20.8 percent are physically inactive as compared with 22.6 nationally. Still, the report notes that D.C.’s “high violent crime rate, low rate of high school graduation, [and] high prevalence of low birth rate” may be causes for concern; additionally, D.C. records 14.9 drug deaths per 100,000 people versus 13.5 across the country, and 7.3 deaths per 1,000 live births versus 6 across the country. (Hawaii was ranked as the healthiest state in the report; the District wasn’t ranked because it’s disproportionately urban.)

Maryland came in at number 18 and Virginia came in at number 21 in the rankings.

When food stamp benefits are running low near the end of the month, the lack of assistance can leave families with more than just empty stomachs. Studies have shown that there are possible links between running out of food stamps and things like more hospital admissions for hypoglycemia, poor student behavior, and lower test scores. (WaPo, 12/9)

How to Market Healthy Food in a Rural Town (City Lab, 12/9)

PHILANTHROPY | Philanthropy wonk Lucy Bernholz’s seventh annual forecast for philanthropy and the social economy is out. Check out the Blueprint for 2016 here. (GrantCraft, 12/7)

– The Senate this week approved new education legislation known as the Every Student Succeeds Act – a move that ends No Child Left Behind and gives states and local school districts more power over judging the quality of their schools. (WaPo, 12/9)

After low test scores, Prince George’s schools CEO to unveil new spending plan (WTOP 12/10)

DISTRICT | D.C.’s $75 Million Problem (DCFPI, 12/10)

When climate change and art collide, you end up with glaciers in unlikely places.

– Ciara 

Join us for WRAG’s 2015 Annual Meeting: Philanthropy All In | Thursday, November 19

It’s that time of year again! WRAG’S 2015 Annual Meeting will take place on Thursday, November 19 at the National Press Club.

WRAG members will hear from Jennifer Bradley, author of The Metropolitan Revolution, as well as a panel of regional leaders about how philanthropy, government, and business can work together to position our region for prosperity.

At the luncheon (open to the community), keynote speaker Harvard’s David Williams will discuss the ways that racism and discrimination continue to impact individuals and communities. Click here to register for Philanthropy All In.

– Capital One, Junior Achievement of Greater Washington, and Prince George’s Public Schools have teamed up to open a JA Finance Park on the campus of G. James Gholson Middle School and Cora L. Rice Elementary School in Landover, Maryland. This 13,500-square-foot experiential financial literacy supercenter is the second in the region and the first in Maryland. It will serve 9,000 Prince George’s County Public School students each year. Another center will open in Montgomery County in 2017. (WaPo, 10/27)

– This year, Virginia schools saw significant improvements with eight in 10 schools meeting state benchmarks for standardized tests. (WaPo, 10/27)

– In Maryland, state-level results on national reading and math tests saw one of the most significant declines in the country in 2015. On the bright side, officials note that the state remains above the national average in some areas, and has also become more inclusive in its testing of students.  (WaPo, 10/28)

One in 10 D.C. students score ‘college ready’ on new high school math test (WaPo, 10/27)

DISTRICT | On the heels of the recent announcement of the Wizards’ practice facility coming to D.C.’s ward 8, residents express their concerns over what it could mean in the long run. (WCP, 10/27)

HEALTHCARE | When hospital patients don’t have the ability to make decisions regarding their own care and have no family to step in and help, hospitals are often overwhelmed with the loss of resources and money.  Some hospitals in D.C. facing similar issues have banned together to create a task force to take a further look at the problem. (WBJ, 10/27)

FOOD/POVERTY | Study: Food stamps do much more to fight poverty than we thought (Vox, 10/27)

When art gets mistaken for trash who’s to blame?

– Ciara

Increasing access to farm-fresh foods

More organizations in the region, like Martha’s Table, are focusing on making farm-fresh foods available to low-income families at farmers markets, increasing access to healthy foods they may not otherwise be able to afford. (WaPo, 8/23)

Because many can’t afford it, healthy food is swapped for cheaper and more fattening foods, said Caron Gremont, the charity’s senior director of healthy eating. It also means, she said, that the families are less likely to shop at farmers markets, learning about new produce or healthy recipe ideas.


The District and neighboring counties have seen a steady increase in farmers markets accepting federal Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program assistance, according to District data. In 2004, only 23 markets in the District, Prince George’s and Montgomery counties accepted WIC; by 2014 that number had nearly tripled to 60.

COMMUNITY | Congratulations to the Public Welfare Foundation for being recognized with the National Association of Pretrial Services Agencies’ Partners Award for their support of pretrial detention reform focused on keeping more people out of jail and decreasing mass incarceration. (PWF, 8/21)

HOMELESSNESS/YOUTH | The Washington Post offers a look at the District’s first-ever count of homeless youth and the difficulties that come along with getting an accurate count. (WaPo, 8/23)

– A recent financial report finds that the great majority of donations go to just a small minority of the District’s 60 public charter schools. (WaPo, 8/22)

Virginia’s Public Schools Need More Money For Teachers, Say Education Advocates (WAMU, 8/21)

– In an effort to bring greater equity to schools across the city, DCPS is launching a new “Cornerstone” initiative this year, where all students will participate in a series of grade- and subject-specific programs to share common learning experiences regardless of where they attend school. (WAMU, 8/24)

HEALTH CARE/RACIAL EQUITY | Can Health Care Be Cured of Racial Bias? (NPR, 8/20)

– The Housing Opportunities Commission of Montgomery County has unveiled a new online portal for residents to submit information and be connected to all available housing assistance. Though the county’s waitlist for Housing Choice Vouchers has been closed for eight years, officials hope the new system will make those in need aware of other services that can help. (Bethesda Magazine, 8/21)

– Housing prices in Arlington County and the District are the highest in the region, with Arlington County’s prices recently pulling further ahead of D.C.’s (WBJ, 8/20)

SOCIAL PROFITS | This fall, United Way of the National Capital Area is offering a series of workshops to assist social profit representatives in the region with community reach and leadership skill building. Click here to learn more information and to register for the learning series.

See if you can identify these countries turned upside down on a map.


Plans for redevelopment in Seven Corners cause concerns

As the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors prepares to vote on a redevelopment plan for the Seven Corners area, some groups have grown concerned over various aspects of the proposed plans and what they may mean for the near future (WaPo, 7/28):

Urban planning groups say the kind of walkable, transit-friendly communities envisioned for Seven Corners are needed in aging suburbs that have become homes to mostly vacant office buildings and discount stores with little commercial traffic.

“The future of Fairfax lies in these aging commercial corridors,” said Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smart Growth. “It certainly can be a win-win and enhance Fairfax’s competitiveness.”

Michelle Krocker, who heads the Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance, said there aren’t enough guarantees in the plan to keep lower-income families from being pushed out, which could have long-term repercussions for the Washington region.

“If there’s no place for them to live affordably, we potentially lose them as employees in the area or they move far out into the hinterlands,” Krocker said. “And, then they’d have to commute in, and that’s problematic for everybody.”

AGING/ARTS | Fairfax County has implemented some fun new ways to make the county more age-friendly and keep older residents engaged. (WAMU, 7/24)

What would it take to attract more millennials to Loudoun County? At the recent Loudoun County Business Chamber’s State of Loudoun’s Workforce event, attention was turned to three main areas where the county could improve to bring in more millennials: affordable housing, the right jobs, and more walkable areas. (Loudoun Times, 7/25)

Related: Following WRAG’s first-ever Loudoun Philanthropy Conference in May, WRAG recently hosted a community meeting on the next steps to develop and maintain a strong social sector in a county whose needs are often overlooked. Check out the #fundloudoun hashtag on Twitter for highlights from the meeting.

Opinion: A writer explains how America can be especially hard on working moms, even when they make up a large portion of the country’s workforce. (Salon, 7/25)

MENTAL HEALTH | As many as 2 million Americans suffer from schizophrenia, making a steady job extremely difficult to find and keep, despite a strong desire to work. For many, the right mix of treatment and a regular routine can put them on the path to employment. (Atlantic, 7/28)

EDUCATION | George Washington University is joining a list of institutions that have recently dropped testing requirements for some freshman admissions in an effort to reduce barriers for disadvantaged students to attend. Critics, however, worry whether the change is enough to recruit low-income students. (WaPo, 7/27)

FOOD | The second edition of a cookbook featuring nutritious recipes for food stamp recipients was recently published with several brand new recipes. The cookbook is geared toward helping the nearly 47 million people in the SNAP program eat well on $4 a day, and offers a more refreshing take on cookbooks aimed at food stamp recipients. (NPR, 7/27)

Are you an “expert” or an “over claimer?”


Regional population growth sees decline

New census figures indicate that population growth (excluding births) in the Washington region is slowing down dramatically. Federal spending cuts and suburban decline are among a number of possible causes for the slow down in migration to the area. (WaPo, 4/16)

After decades of expansion, new census numbers show that population growth in the Washington region has slowed dramatically, with Fairfax County, Arlington County and Alexandria seeing more people move out of those communities than move in over the past year.


Even in the District, a city of about 650,000 residents where condos are popping up across the skyline and newly fashionable neighborhoods are quickly becoming unaffordable for longtime residents, net migration went down last year — from about 10,000 in 2013 to half that.

AARP has released a new online tool that ranks U.S. neighborhoods on their livability for older Americans. The tool weighs a number of significant factors to determine the probability of  successfully aging-in-place on a scale of 0-100. (WaPo, 4/20)

– Do the unfortunate realities of inequality suddenly dissolve when one becomes a senior citizen and experiences the same changes a person from any economic background would – less dependence, lack of mobility, inability to work? Sadly, no. The Atlantic takes a look at how disparities often persist for many Americans throughout a lifetime. (Atlantic, 4/20)

MARYLAND/TRANSIT | A new report estimates the economic benefits for Maryland suburbs if the Purple Line project is given the go ahead. (WaPo, 4/20)

INEQUALITY | This chart explains everything you need to know about inequality (WaPo, 4/20)

– With exorbitant prices for often low-quality land for agricultural use, many farmers in the District are looking toward new legislation to make urban agricultural growth easier and more economical. (WAMU, 4/17)

Opinion:  Many celebrities and public figures have signed on to participate in food stamp challenges in recent years. One writer questions if a recent challenge gone wrong has actually done more harm than good in raising the awareness of the plight of poverty. (WaPo, 4/18)

Wait a minute…is that Yoda in that 14th century manuscript?

– Ciara

Mayor Bowser delivers first State of the District address

Last night, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser delivered her first State of the District address in which she outlined her plans to create “pathways to the middle class” and pledged greater transparency in local government. Her speech covered a number of priorities for her administration, including affordable housing, education, homelessness, and transportation, among other topics. Some highlights included (WaPo, 3/31 and WCP, 3/31):

Affordable housing:
Bowser said her first budget, due to the D.C. Council on Thursday, would lay out a plan for funding her priorities, including matching the $100 million a year that [Mayor] Gray allocated at the end of his term for affordable housing.


And she said she would reinvest in the city’s New Communities initiative, which aims to rejuvenate some of the city’s rundown public and subsidized housing.

Earlier on Tuesday, Bowser announced a partnership to establish 100 year-long internships for young black men.

In her speech, she also reiterated that she would pursue opening an all-male school for underprivileged boys.

She pledged to close the city’s dilapidated family homeless shelter on the campus of the former D.C. General Hospital “once and for all.” And she put dates to her goal of ending homelessness — 2018 for chronic family homelessness and 2025 for all homelessness.

Bowser promised to not just start the streetcar on H Street and Benning Road NE, but eventually expand it east across the Anacostia River into Ward 7 and west in downtown and Georgetown. Still, Bowser acknowledged that the streetcar program has been “long on promises and short on results.”

– You can read the full State of the District address here. (WaPo, 3/31)

EVENTS/WRAG | WRAG announces an upcoming conference on the evolving needs of the region’s fastest-growing jurisdiction, Loudoun County! The Loudoun County Philanthropy Conference on Thursday, May 14 is open to those interested in exploring the needs of the county, and is sponsored by the Claude Moore Charitable Foundation, the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, and the Middleburg Community Center. (Daily, 4/1)

REGION | The Audacious Plan to Turn a Sprawling DC Suburb Into a Big City (Washingtonian, 3/29)

EDUCATION/INEQUALITYWhy More Education Won’t Fix Economic Inequality (NYT, 3/31)

POVERTY/FOOD | Opinion: Restrictions on what foods those who utilize SNAP benefits can purchase, and public opinion regarding other aspects of the lives of the poor, leaves many low-income Americans feeling heavily scrutinized….almost as if they’re criminals. (WaPo, 3/30)

 I am decidedly anti-April Fool’s Day this year. With that, I present you with a guide to what is fake on the Internet today. Unfortunately, (or fortunately?) this one is not a prank at all.

– Ciara

Health care systems ramp up efforts to assist hardest-to-help patients

For many Americans, health issues are further complicated by the effects of addiction, homelessness, and poverty. For that reason, a number of health systems across the country – including Kaiser Permanentehave begun experiments in providing more comprehensive care for those in poverty, in an effort to curb the high costs of care. (NYT, 3/22)

What is [the health care system’s] role in tackling problems of poverty? And will addressing those problems save money?

“We had this forehead-smacking realization that poverty has all of these expensive consequences in health care,” said Ross Owen, a county health official who helps run the experiment here [in Hennepin County, Minnesota]. “We’d pay to amputate a diabetic’s foot, but not for a warm pair of winter boots.”

Now health systems around the nation are trying to buy the boots, metaphorically speaking. In Portland, Ore., health outreach workers help patients get driver’s licenses and give them essentials, such as bus tickets, blankets, calendars and adult diapers. In New York, medical teams are trained to handle eviction notices like medical emergencies. In Philadelphia, community health workers shop for groceries with diabetic patients

– Foundations of every size are “getting on the map!” Lori Jackson, executive manager at the Alexander and Margaret Stewart Trust, shares why they’re joining a growing list of funders in e-reporting their grants data to the Foundation Center. (Daily, 3/23)

What becomes of an initiative once funders have ended support and hand the program over to the community? Results may vary greatly, but there are ways to continue moving forward and increase the odds of sustainability. (SSIR, 3/13)

Urban Institute Gets $8.4 Million to Help Measure Pay-for-Success Programs (Chronicle, 3/18)

CSR | On April 1, 2014, the India Companies Act went into effect. The new law requires companies meeting certain criteria to spend 2 percent of rolling average net profits from the past three financial years on specific CSR activities. WRAG member and 2015 Institute for CSR class member, Anita Whitehead, from KPMG LLP gives a succinct overview of the new rule and how it affects companies working in the country. (TCB Blogs, 3/3)

VIRGINIAAttorney General appoints NOVA community outreach coordinator (Fairfax Times, 3/20)

DISTRICT | Ahead of Mayor Bowser’s first State of the District speech and budget proposal, this week will be dedicated to offering a preview of key themes that are expected to be discussed as part of the “Pathways to the Middle Class” agenda. (WaPo, 3/23)

ARTS | Brentwood Arts Exchange looks to move beyond walls in next five years (Gazette, 3/19)

FOOD | Both Parties Agree The Food Stamp Program Needs to Change. But How? (NPR, 3/20)

A beautiful, extraordinary, and priceless work of art…or just a generic print from Ikea?

– Ciara

Follow-Up: Protecting key federal nutrition programs of local importance

by Lindsay Smith
Washington Regional Food Funders

In the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia, SNAP served more than 1.8 million people last year. (Some local studies also suggest that not all of those eligible for these benefits received them.) Federal programs like SNAP, the school lunch program, and WIC, support millions of people in D.C., MD, and VA. Cutting these programs places additional demands on our region’s emergency food service providers to meet the nutritional needs of low-income community members.

Unfortunately, it’s becoming clearer everyday that some in Congress are intent on cutting SNAP again when what’s needed is the opposite. Last summer, Charles Meng of the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) attributed a 40 percent increase in the number of people AFAC was serving in just one year to a cut in SNAP benefits, and the expiration of unemployment benefits. He explained:

“This is unlike a recession situation when we see people coming to us, and when the recession eases, they’d be leaving us…we’re not seeing that, these are basically going to be our clients on a long-term basis because this is a structural change to the funding available from the feds.”

Continued funding for emergency food assistance is critical but so is supporting policy change if we hope to eliminate hunger and improve health.

I encourage funders to support our region’s emergency food service providers and:

  1. Talk with them about their programmatic aspirations and where there may be opportunities to build a stronger regional food system in the process. A number are working to increase healthy food options as demand for this increases.
  2. Ask what federal and local policy changes would make a difference to their clients’ ability to access healthy food, and if the organization is in a position to support their clients to share stories about the impact of food insecurity on their lives.
  3. Use your own voice to talk with legislators about the impact of a weakened social safety net on your grantees and the communities they serve. Sharing your own story is not lobbying, though it’s always useful to review the differences between lobbying and advocacy.

One priority a new report from the Food and Agriculture Policy Collaborative calls for is protecting and improving SNAP to ensure that Americans don’t go hungry and to help build a more sustainable food system. Doing so will require funders to consider their ability to invest in longer term policy change. There are proven well-established advocates, and new ones, who can sustain the campaign needed to eliminate hunger and build a more sustainable food system. In the near term, they’ll need support to demonstrate the short-sighted nature of cutting effective programs like SNAP. They also need support to continue to broaden their coalitions and to identify strategic opportunities to change the narrative on SNAP   – improving the program can reduce hunger and its costly consequences even more than it does now.

Lindsay Smith coordinates the work of Washington Regional Food Funders (WRFF), a working group of WRAG. On May 7, 2015, WRAG will offer Food Security 101 for WRAG members in partnership with the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region to examine some of the themes raised in this post in greater detail, and how it relates to our broader regional food system.

What a month on SNAP is like

SAFETY NET | In a front page story today, the Post profiles a local family struggling to get by from month to month on food stamps and services from local nonprofit organizations — an experience that has become even more challenging with the recent reduction in SNAP benefits (WaPo, 12/16):

It was Thursday, which meant giveaways at a place called Bread for the City. Fridays were free medical care at the clinic in Southeast Washington. Saturdays were the food pantry at Ambassador Baptist Church. The 1st of each month was a disability check, the 2nd was government cash assistance and the 8th was food stamps…

Except this month had introduced a historic shift. The nation’s food stamp program had just undergone its biggest cut in 50 years, the beginning of an attempt by Congress to dramatically shrink the government’s fastest-growing entitlement program, which had tripled in cost during the past decade to almost $80 billion each year. Starting in November, more than 47 million Americans had experienced decreases in their monthly benefit, averaging about 7 percent. For the Richmonds, it was more. Not far across the Anacostia River from their house, Congress was already busy debating the size and ramifications of the next cut, likely to be included in the farm bill early next year.

It was a debate not only about financial reform but also about cultural transformation. In a country where 7 million people had been receiving food assistance for a decade or longer, the challenge for some in government was how to wean the next generation from a cycle of long-term dependency.

Raphael’s challenge was both more pressing and more basic: Her monthly allotment of $290 in food assistance had been reduced to $246. She already had spent the entire balance on two carts of groceries at Save a Lot. There were 22 days left until the 8th.

EDUCATION | D.C. teachers offer wide range of views on city policies (WaPo, 12/14)

– Lucy Bernholz looks at how big data will change philanthropy. (WSJ, 12/15):

Foundations will be able to develop, assess and revise their giving strategies by pulling information from community surveys, organizational reports and an up-to-date “ticker” of other philanthropic giving. As a foundation, for instance, considers its annual giving in support of early-childhood education, it will be able to click on visualizations of the past few years’ progress on reading readiness at the programs it has previously funded.

– Here’s a clever idea from a food bank in Madrid: a “vending machine” that lets you donate money for food items. (Guardian, 12/10)

– NPR’s Marketplace program ran a series of stories on foundations, donors, and philanthropy last week.

REGION | In case you missed it, the Post has a run down of the Brookings Institution’s Bruce Katz’s keynote speech at the the Council of Government’s annual meeting last week.

This has got to be the most insane and/or awesome holiday light display in the world.

– Rebekah