AAWGT: Making a difference in our community!
Full Circle News:
The Power of One ... Multiplied by Many
AAWGT’s second educational program in June drew one of the largest audiences ever, with 130 members and guests registered. In this land of plenty attendees were given a chilling overview of the number of people in the US who are not sure when and how they will get their next meal.
Karen Bassarab, Senior Program Officer at Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, and Christine Melendez Ashley, Deputy Director for Government Relations at Bread for the World, began by reviewing the root causes of chronic food insecurity. Governmental policies, food advertising and societal norms were identified as factors in poor nutrition practices, along with more individually- based barriers to good nutrition such as lack of nutrition knowledge and unhealthy lifestyles. Limited access to healthy food due to urban “food deserts” was also identified. The overall result is that compared to white Americans, Latino families are two and a half times more likely and African American and Indigenous families are up to three times more likely to be food insecure. It also was reported that regardless of race, 30% of female-headed households are food insecure.
While causes vary, food insecurity universally creates a vicious long-term cycle of decline among affected populations. Inadequate nutrition from conception to 24 months negatively affects a child’s ability to succeed throughout life. This pattern continues through youth and adulthood, as an ongoing diet of non-nutritious, calorie-dense foods causes obesity and associated chronic diseases, ultimately leading to increased healthcare costs and decreasing the financial resources needed to purchase nutritious food.
In looking towards solutions, it was heartening to learn of recently formed county/school partnerships to combat food insecurity locally, as presented by Ann Heiser Buzzelli, RD, LDN, Community Education, Anne Arundel County Department of Health and Jodi Risse, RD., Supervisor, Food & Nutrition Services, Anne Arundel County Public Schools. After surveying the Brooklyn Park Community, Ann & Jodi encouraged a local farmer and other partners to set up the Brooklyn Park Farmers Market featuring foods with a rainbow of colors, enticing attendees to taste new foods. Jodi also applies the rainbow of colors approach to nutritious eating in school cafeterias, where students may serve themselves an unlimited number of fruits and vegetables.
The final speaker of the program was Michael Wierzbicki, a North County teacher who has pioneered a STEM education program for underserved students to combat food insecurity. Mike provides hands-on classes in growing nutritious food in urban gardens, farming tilapia, and tending honey-producing bee hives. Through these activities he teaches lessons in environmental science, nutrition, and general science, as well as principles of business. His students have started packaging their foods under the Cohort Brand, and several samples were displayed. At the completion of the program, Mike and his student assistants shared product tastings with the audience.
Preparing for a New Career Which Benefits the Hispanic Community
By the middle of June Ana was exhausted. She had been attending sessions at the Center of Help to prepare for a new career in childcare and had pushed through the evening training modules after long days of working and caring for her family. The amount of material she had to cover was daunting, and there were also follow-up sessions on first aid and other skills. Some of the women in the program with Ana were not strong in English, but Ana is bilingual. And when she passed her final test, not only had she completed the first step to begin creating income for own family, she also was able to help other women in her community who would be able to pursue paid employment as a direct result of the daycare she would provide.
This “double-winner” concept is the goal of Mujeres Surgiendo—Women on the Rise, which was created through a unique partnership between Arundel Child Care Connections (ACCC) and the Hispanic-centric Center of Help and funded with a $20,000 grant by AAWGT during the 2018-19 grant cycle.
The first class of five women in the Mujeres Surgiendo program all completed the modules and training sessions required for them to be placed in childcare positions, and can now continue to work toward their Child Development Associate certification. A side benefit of the program, noted ACCC director Germaine Adams, is that some of the women brought their middle and high school children with them to the evening sessions. This helped the kids see what their parent was going through—a lot of hard work for a job that will benefit children and the community as a whole.
At the end of the year, Ana and her family attended a dinner to celebrate her achievement. Along with the other women in her class she continues to receive support from Arundel Child Care Connections, from help securing job placement at a center to expanding her portfolio and reviewing her interview skills. Like her classmates, Ana will have new options beyond working in fast food or cleaning houses, and new opportunities to build her family’s finances. And as a bilingual worker in an Annapolis child care center, she will be a linchpin in the Hispanic community, interacting with both children and parents, and making the child care and pre-school experiences smoother and more fruitful for Hispanic families.
Three AAWGT members are being honored by the YWCA of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County at the 34th Tribute to Women in Industry (TWIN) luncheon. These awards recognize contributions and accomplishments of visionary women in the workplace and the community.
Anna Greenberg is the TWIN Awardee from the Nonprofit Sector
Margo Cook is the TWIN Awardee from the Business Sector
Karen Smith will be honored as a TWIN Trailblazer from the Nonprofit Sector
For tickets, please contact the YWCA at 410-626-7800 x 163 or email email@example.com.
AAWGT members should let Sue Pitchford know by September 15 if you are attending and want to sit at the AAWGT tables.
September is an incredibly busy month for our Post Grants Evaluation Committee. As you read this, the committee is in the final phase of planning for the premier event of the year—our Grants Showcase! At this event, the organizations whose grants have just been completed present the results of the program that our grants funded. We often get to hear from their clients who received the benefits. The stories that they tell are sometimes heartbreaking but always hopeful. It can be a tremendously moving evening so be prepared! The non-profits that were awarded grants during our May voting meeting also are introduced and are available to answer questions about their programs.
It is so gratifying to hear about the programs our grants funded and realize that we truly are making a difference in the community that we care so much about. The Post Grants Evaluation Committee is also busy making preparations for a visit to one of last year's grantees. Our members get to meet the non-profit staff and their clients and get to see first-hand the difference our grants make in their lives. Along with voting for the grants, this is the largest single benefit that our membership has.
The Post Grants Evaluation Committee consists of 15-20 members who are assigned to grantee organizations. Each organization is assigned two committee members. They go on site to meet the grantees and stay in touch with them throughout the grant year, answering any questions they have and ensuring that they are working on the goals as outlined in the grant proposal. It’s one of the best ways for members to really understand the work that we do as funders and the benefit the community receives. Thanks to Eileen Cortese, Post Grants Chair, Kate Caldwell, Post Grants Assistant Chair, and all the committee members for the fine work that they do.
Sue Pitchford, President
Sheila Onuska, Vice-President and President-Elect