Category Archives: causes that i support

Lean and Green (and Meatless) in Philly

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Philadelphia’s schools up the ante—and nutritional value of school lunches—on Meatless Monday with its brand new Lean and Green initiative.

We all know the deal: protein is good for you, saturated fat, not so much—a primary factor in meat’s demise in popularity among nutrition experts. Sure, meat has its dietary upside, but unless you’re pescatarian, vegetarian or vegan, chances are you’re eating too much. And, so are your children.

Recent numbers show that Americans consume approximately 185 pounds of chicken, turkey, pork, lamb and beef annually. While that doesn’t seem like much over the course of 12 months, overconsumption (more than 18 ounces per week of red meat, in particular) can clog your arteries and increase the risk of colon cancer. That’s the “not so (good) much” part.

Now that summer is behind us, and for us carnivores, its abundance of grilled burgers, ribs, hot dogs and chicken, sticking to the guidelines should be a lot easier. And though I did make it through the first Monday of September with nary a bite of meat, I suspect many others did not. The good news, is that you’ve got another 51 (+/-) chances to jump on the Meatless Monday bandwagon. And, to help spread the word about its next school cafeteria rendition: Lean and Green.

If you haven’t heard about this initiative yet, it’s an effort by Philadelphia Public Schools to tastefully tempt students to eat more meat-free meals—not just on Mondays. While menus are still being played with, students can expect more plant-based foods and hearty, but healthy complex carb-protein-veggie combinations such as bean burritos, pasta with marinara sauce and vegetable calzones (yum!).

Health isn’t the only benefit of decreasing consumption (and preparation) of meat, it’s also an effective means of reducing schools’ carbon footprints, positively impacting animal welfare (as it relates to factory farming), and helping more families discover alternatives to foods that lead to chronic conditions such as obesity and diabetes.

As you might expect, this is welcome news to The Humane League, most significantly, its Philadelphia Director Rachel Atcheson who’s been busy shouting the news from the rooftops (and through the media) since the program was announced in late May. The Humane League has been proactive in reducing meat consumption, animal cruelty and environmental damage with its once-a-week meat “vacation,” also adhered to by Philadelphia’s schools. In the City of Brotherly Love, and across the country, #MeatlessMonday has become a weekly habit and spurred a lot of recipe sharing between vegetarians and carnivores. Just throw that hashtag in your browser, and in seconds you’ll have more Lean and Green recipes than time to make them.

“Encouraging students to take a holiday from meat one day a week with Lean and Green Days will do wonders for their health and academic performance.” —Rachel Atcheson, Philadelphia Director, The Humane League.

To get in the mood at home, here are a few recipes for you and the kids. The charred tomato soup is a great way to use up this summer’s final harvest.

Happy (green) eating! (Click on the photos to get to the recipes.)

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500 Days to MDGs

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500 DAYS to MDGs 

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In 2000, world leaders adopted a series of ambitious goals–the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)–including commitments to cut poverty by half, get every child into school, and dramatically reduce child and maternal deaths by 2015. 

When I had my last child in 1999, I was stricken with Strep A, a blood infection that rocked my world in a very dramatic and frightening way. For weeks afterward, I lived with a picc line in my arm and intense fatigue that left me barely awake enough to nurse my son, number five in the family line. We also discovered a few hours after my son was born, that he had a club foot. So while dealing with the Strep A diagnosis, we were also researching orthopedic surgeons.

Though nerve-wracking, my husband and I were grateful for the quality of care afforded us, and the ability to take the necessary steps to heal both of us. We were certainly worried, but never once did it occur to us that our child might die—at least until he was 10 months old and had a very severe febrile seizure that landed him in critical care. Even then, we were surrounded by a skilled medical staff who knew how to handle worst case scenarios, just as we had been when our second child was stricken with RSV during infancy.

 That was another very scary time, but again, we were privy to excellent medical care—a circumstance not always the case for many women living in poverty both in the U.S. and around the world where child and maternal deaths are a serious problem. This is especially true in less developed nations where 18,000 children die each day from preventable causes and one million newborns die on their first day of life.

With five children, you can bet that I have seen my fair share of medical issues, all of the above plus scoliosis and borderline mental retardation in my eldest. The latter sound a lot worse on paper than in real life, but my point is that without access to top surgeons, psychologists, educational institutions, medicine, et al, my children’s lives may have turned out very differently. If anyone appreciates living in a region of medical abundance—and near genius—it’s me. Which is why I feel strongly about building awareness of Save the Children’s campaign to end preventable child deaths and Social Good Moms collaborative mission to post each day leading up to 500 Days to MDGs.

I’ve only just begun learning about these initiatives myself, but now, knowing the facts, my already high appreciation for having five healthy kids has soared. Anyone who’s been keeping up with current events is well aware that children everywhere are suffering from the impact of poverty, natural disasters, war, neglect, abuse and illness. While some may get on a soapbox about overpopulation, the fact remains that humans procreate whether intentionally or not and the children they bring into the world do not deserve to live—or die—in such horrific, and often preventable circumstances.

Thankfully, many of our world leaders agree: 14 years ago they adopted a series of goals now known as the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). This ambitious initiative included commitments to cut poverty by half, get every child into school, and dramatically reduce child and maternal deaths by 2015. Recent data has shown a significant drop—millions fewer—in the number of people living in extreme poverty than a generation ago, and that most children are completing a primary education. Findings also reveal that global hunger has been cut by over a third and that there are 90 million people living today whose lives would have been cut short, had child mortality rates remained at 1990 levels, the baseline year for the initial MDGs. 

However, that does not diminish the need for for more trained and skilled health workers, particularly in light of the startling number of newborn deaths, which account for 4 out of 5 deaths of children under the age of five.

Unless we urgently start to tackle newborn deaths, there is a real danger that progress in reducing child deaths could stall and we will fail in our ambition to be the generation that can end all preventable child deaths.

With 500 days to go before the target date, it is vital that the world acts to make sure more countries can get on-track to achieve MDG4-the reduction of preventable child deaths by two thirds by 2015. 

Here are the facts:

  • Each day an estimated 800 mothers and 18,000 young children die from largely preventable causes.
  • More than 1 million babies die on their first and only day of life across the world, and 2.9 million in their first month.
  • The newborn crisis is much bigger than we may think, with a staggering 1.2 million stillbirths occurring during childbirth
  • More than half of these maternal and under-fives deaths take place in locations beset by a high risk of conflict and/or natural disasters.
  • 40 million women give birth without any skilled help—that’s more than 100,000 women every day. Even more dramatically, 2 million women a year are entirely alone when giving birth.
  • Investing in mothers works. Maternal deaths and child mortality in the most challenging countries of the world are being dramatically cut when efforts are made to improve services for mothers and children.
  • Preventable: We can stop this. Many of these deaths are preventable if the mother-to-be had a trained midwife to help them give birth safely
  • Equality: Newborn mortality rates can only be reduced through fairer distribution of essential health services and through universal healthcare access; this means making these more available to the poorest and most marginalized families, as well as to communities living in rural areas.

What can you do to help? It’s simple. Learn the facts, spread the word. Help save children’s lives.

500 days to MDG

 

Global Team of 200

 

 

 

 

 

The power of protein: Tyson Foods delivers 30,000 lbs. of it to Philabundance

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Hunger advocacy never gets old for me, which is why I love sharing stories about organizations that are making a consistent and sincere effort to provide relief for those in need. I was very excited to learn that during the last week of February, Tyson Foods, Inc., one of the country’s leading processors and marketers of chicken, beef and pork, delivered 30,000 pounds of protein to Philabundance. If you’ve never heard of Philabundance, it is the region’s largest hunger relief organization serving five counties in Philadelphia and four in New Jersey. 23% of its “clients” are children, and 16% are seniors—the two most vulnerable demographics.

Over the last four years, Philabundance has seen a 143% in need; a donation of this size is enormously helpful and in fact, helped provide 30,000 meals for families in the Delaware Valley where there are nearly 900,000 residents at risk of hunger and malnutrition.

Here in Philadelphia, 1 in 4 residents are at risk for hunger, more than double the rates reported at both the national and state levels. (Click here to learn more about the “State of Hunger” across Pennsylvania.)

This is an alarming statistic anywhere, but in a city overflowing with trendy restaurants, food trucks, street vendors and gourmet markets, it is mind-boggling. For those paying attention to government funding, and following a number of international and national hunger prevention and cessation organizations, it’s very difficult to stand by and watch the hunger crisis worsen.

But all hope is not lost, especially here in Philadelphia where we have some of the most dedicated anti-hunger organizations in the country. But no matter how hard they work, their impact is marginalized by increasingly limited food supplies, due in large part to a rise in demand set off by SNAP cuts.

Though the data is hard to swallow, particularly in regard to the number of people being turned away by food pantries, there seems to be a growing movement among large food-based corporations to incorporate hunger into their cause marketing and/or corporate giving. Tyson is one of those companies working to make a difference, and this makes many people, including myself, happy. The Philadelphia donation is the second of three donation events in the Be a Hunger Hero campaign, a partnership between Champions for Kids and Tyson that aims to fight childhood hunger by providing the much-needed protein to families in need.

Tyson Foods’ current hunger relief campaign, KNOW Hunger, is focused on helping more people understand and join the effort to eliminate hunger in America. In the past 13 years, Tyson Foods has donated more than 95 million pounds of protein in the United States.

Tyson Foods KNOWs Hunger Campaign is positively impacting the hunger crisis by bringing attention to the issue and demystifying people's perceptions of WHO is a hungry person.

Tyson Foods KNOWs Hunger Campaign is positively impacting the hunger crisis by bringing attention to the issue and demystifying people’s perceptions of WHO is a hungry person.

These types of initiatives matter because being in a constant state of hunger prevents people from functioning normally. Their bodies are depleted, making it hard to focus on responsibilities or maintain enough energy to be effective at work—if they’re lucky enough to have a job.

We all have friends who we can count on to deliver a rant about the perceived character traits of those living in disadvantaged circumstances. But the face of hunger has changed. And so has its impact on the human body. In this article, researchers examine the link between poor nutrition/low food budgets and obesity. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that high-nutrition foods are more costly, leaving many families with little choice other than to buy/consume cheaper, high-calorie foods.

One of the first grocery items to fall off the list when budgets are tight, is meat. And though consuming too much meat has its pitfalls, a diet of cheap, starchy carbohydrates and processed foods is worse. Protein is critical for memory and learning in both children and adults, and also for maintaining body composition, bone health and normal blood sugar. Being able to dispense 30,000 pounds of chicken, beef and pork across the region is not an everyday occurrence. If it were, obesity rates would be down, kids wouldn’t be thinking about lunch instead of the lesson going on in their classroom, and hunger statistics would start inching downward.

Thank you Tyson, Philabundance and Champion for Kids for standing up against hunger. I have a hunch that your friends at Share Our Strength and No Kid Hungry welcome the assist.

Q+A w/Jay Jaboneta: Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation

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This bright and playful logo captures the spirit of both YBHF's young leader and the organization's happy "clients."

This bright and playful logo captures the spirit of both YBHF’s co-founder and the organization’s young “clients.” No more swimming upstream for these eager students.

Can you imagine your young child swimming to school? It’s mind boggling, right? Yet until Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation came along, children living in a number of remote Philippine villages relied on the power of their arms and legs to carry them away from their homes and into their waterside classrooms. As shocked as you are reading this now, equally so back in 2010, was a young Filipino by the name of Jay Jaboneta. Armed with a natural inclination toward good citizenship, and a penchant for social networking, Jaboneta was poised to take action.

After learning about this unconventional school transportation, Jaboneta began posting on Facebook. His vocalization on social media led to Zamboanga Funds for Little Kids in 2010. In the four years since founding the Yellow Boat Project, the organization has provided 511 “school boats”—300 of those for Typhoon Haiyan families. Along the way, he’s culled a dedicated team of volunteers (and an impressive number of donors), and laid the foundation for building schools and classrooms (and distributing school supplies); delivering medical and dental care; creating scholarship and livelihood programs; and currently, the construction of dormitories and bridges.

Filipino philanthropist, social activist and all-around soulful human being, Jay Jaboneta.

Filipino philanthropist, social activist and all-around soulful human being, Jay Jaboneta, Co-Founder & Chief Storyteller, Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation

My first introduction to this accidental philanthropist came during Social Good Summit 2013 (aka #2030NOW), where he shared his story of how social media—and the power of one—can shake up the world. (Leave a comment and I’ll dig up the event’s live streaming link.) I encourage you to read this in-depth Q+A, and to follow up with a visit to YBHF’s Facebook page, where you’ll find an abundance of inspiring posts and photos. You can also learn more about Mr. Jaboneta here, and tune in live to tomorrow’s Annual Youth Assembly at the United Nations, where he’s punctuating the day’s messaging as closing keynote speaker.

With no further ado…  Continue reading

Meatless Monday in Philadelphia Schools

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Lou Ryan, Human League intern and Meatless Monday advocate Hot off the press, a guest post by full-time student, activist and Humane League intern, Lou Ryan. Ms. Ryan currently studies professional writing at Kutztown University, where she has written a number of health-related articles for student-run newspaper The Keystone. We connected on Twitter, after I retweeted a #meatlessmonday post. She is helping the Humane League promote Meatless Monday in Philadelphia Schools and well, I think that is a great cause to support. If you’d like to learn even more about this initiative after reading the information provided here, you can reach Ms. Ryan at lou@thehumaneleague.com and follow her on Twitter @TheHumaneLeague. And, if you’re in favor, well, please sign the petition.

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Skip the Meat, Save the World: Meatless Monday in Philadelphia Schools
by Lou Ryan

Imagine the positive impact we could make on the world around us if we got one of the ten largest school districts in the U.S. to serve plant-based meals every Monday. Now double that impact, because one such district—Los Angeles Unified Public Schools—has already signed on, and a second is on its way.

Nonprofit organization The Humane League is running a campaign to get the School District of Philadelphia, the eighth largest district in the U.S. by enrollment,[1] to join countless other districts, municipalities, and companies across the nation participating in Meatless Monday.

In 2003, the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health started promoting Meatless Monday as a public health initiative. The Philadelphia City Council unanimously passed a resolution on Oct. 17, 2013 recognizing the benefits of a diet high in fruits and vegetables and urging city residents to participate in Meatless Monday.[2]

Why Meatless Monday, other than for the sake of alliteration? The resolution cites a multitude of reasons ranging from sustainability to health. Take, for example: “According to the United Nations, ‘Livestock are one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems,’ and the livestock sector is responsible for about 18 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.”  Continue reading

Help Us Adopt: Changing the World One Grant at a Time

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Parenthood is an amazing thing—not for everyone, but certainly for me. I’m a sucker for pregnant bellies, babies and toddlers, but I don’t discriminate; kids of all ages bring me joy. Which is good, since I’ve brought five of them into the world.  And even though my experience is changing as one-by-one they’re heading to, or graduating from, college (something I’m admittedly struggling with), I never lose sight of how generous biology has been to me; easy conceptions, easy pregnancies, easy deliveries, a not-so-uncommon feat for many women, yet impossible for others. A fact I consider every time I start to fret about my eventual empty nest status. Having five kids’ worth of parenting memories, and more to come as they reach new milestones, is a gift that I don’t take for granted. Because I know that many, many women, and men, would trade my lament for the chance to bring even one child into the world with such ease.

It’s heartbreaking to watch friends and family struggle with infertility. Equally so, with adoption, a word filled with possibility, but also with uncertainty. After months of failed infertility treatments, “uncertainty” is a very difficult state to sustain. I know, because I have looked on helplessly as several of my friends have navigated the path of uncertainty with mixed results. Adoption can be a beautiful alternative, but it’s far from smooth-sailing. And though not everyone chooses adoption because of difficulty conceiving naturally, those who do, are emotionally and physically tapped out by the time they reach that decision.

What these men and women need most, is a strong support system, friends and family who will share the ups and the downs of their journey optimistically and lovingly. Who can help them vet resources and find creative ways to pay the bills.

One such resource is Help Us Adopt, a financial assistance grant program that provides qualified couples and individuals (regardless of race, religion, marital status or sexual preference) with grants of up to $15,000.00 towards their adoption expenses. Since filing as a 501(c)(3) in 2007, this dynamic, New York-based nonprofit has awarded $770,000 to 91 families. Grants are awarded twice a year, in June and December. The most recent awards were just announced last week: $10,000 to 10 families—two LGBT families, five heterosexual married couples, and three single women.  Continue reading

#GivingTuesday—& thanks: CVS Caremark delivers

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Wow! What a way to celebrate #GivingTuesday and the spirit of volunteerism, and what a great gift to give: $25,000 toward 25 colleague-nominated organizations nationwide—generously donated by CVS Caremark Charitable Trust. In case you’re not so good with numbers, that’s $1,000 to each. For a list of recipients, click here.

I am personally excited because I recently had a chance to get to know CVS Caremark earlier this fall, spreading the good word about its All Kids Can-Special Olympics partnership.

Also on CVS Caremark’s #GivingTuesday agenda, is the launch of its new YouTube channel. It’s exciting to see how big brands and nonprofits are using social media, and taking the step into video is a perfect fit for this dynamic organization and its partners. By highlighting colleagues who volunteer in their communities, All Kids Can programs and more, CVS Caremark is upping its storytelling game. These videos are a terrific way to say thank you to those who help make these programs a success, and to spread the good word that volunteering is a crucial—and rewarding—endeavor.

Take a look:

 

—Logo and video courtesy of CVS Caremark

Giving Tuesday: Think Globally, Act Locally

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JUST IN from the #GivingTuesday team: Game Day details. Click the icon to find out how you can show your support for the next 24+ hours. It’s not too late.

Get into the GIVING spirit and spend your time and money where it has the power to transform your community, and maybe even the world.

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Here’s the original post… 

Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday… by now you’re likely familiar with these trending—and trendy—designated holiday shopping days. Lesser known, is Giving Tuesday, a philanthropic spin on conspicuous consumption. The initiative is picking up steam as we close in on this year’s day of giving, Tuesday, December 3. I enjoyed reading, earlier today, that Bill Gates posted about this on his LinkedIn page; big names behind causes typically result in people paying attention. Which, they seem to be doing.

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Type #GivingTuesday into your Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr search bars and you’ll be rewarded with all kinds of details, including what others are doing to show their support.  Continue reading

No Kid Hungry: 14 Days, 14 Ways

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Every time I see or read a news clip, post or tweet about what’s happening in the Philippines, one of the first thoughts to pop up is, “How are these organizations doing it?” I think about the recent refugee crisis in Syria, and wonder how the world’s relief agencies are going to be able to meet the nutritional needs of all the Filipinos who barely survived. It’s an unfathomable burden that requires “a village” — aka you and me.

Because along with the hundreds of thousands of displaced persons across the globe, we have many, many hungry families here in our own country, who are having equal difficulties obtaining food. Hunger continues to be one of the world’s most pressing issues. It’s hard to make sense of it, or to visualize an end. But in a country where food is practically recreation, it feels unacceptable that so many go without. If you’re not fully aware of what the real story is regarding hunger, particularly in kids, a visit to NoKidHungry.org will open your eyes. My fellow Pennsylvanians can also get a local perspective via Coalition Against Hunger. Skimming this PDF addressing the state of hunger in PA, it’s hard to overlook the big numbers…

nkh breakfast Continue reading

Typhoon Haiyan Giving Guide

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There’s nothing original about me writing a post on how to help the victims of Typhoon Haiyan; lists and links have been circulating all week. But just like many of you, I am walking around with a burning need to act, and unable to stay focused and feel purposeful amidst a constant stream of staggering images, displaced persons stats and death/survival stories. Worse, I can’t convey my empathy to the families and individuals who have lost loved ones, their homes, and in most cases, at this point, their dignity. I can’t help think about the pregnant woman who shared her struggle of finding food to keep herself and her unborn child nourished. Nor can I get my mind off the young children who lost parents, and might be wandering around the streets, completely helpless and alone… babies dying at birth because their would-be moms are suddenly without appropriate medical care. I could go on and on conjuring up images of a life that is happening concurrently with mine. Mine, a life that at this moment boasts ridiculously mundane “problems” such as being behind schedule with a couple blog posts, not having had time to workout this week, and how I am going to pay for the computer my HS senior is begging for this Christmas.

You get the point.

So if all I can do, is compile information on how and where to give, making it as easy as a click for anyone willing to read this post, then I have made a difference. If you think the resources here have value to those in your circles, I hope that you will share this post. More importantly, I hope that you will find a few extra dollars in your piggy bank to donate. World relief organizations are under incredible pressure in regard to Syrian refugees and so many other global aid initiatives; I can only imagine how challenging this new international crisis is and how fretful they are about being able to reach victims before more lives are lost. I am sorry to be a downer, or come off like a bleeding heart liberal… but these people need help. A lot of people need help, I know. But today, the victims of Typhoon Haiyan need it most.

If you have any links to add, please do so via a comment below. Thank you for tuning in.

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This post on People.com highlights several organizations making  appeals via Twitter.

Earlier today, I tweeted this link from nytimes.com, which provides a  comprehensive list of organizations and different ways they’re  collecting funds.

CNN.com also put out an additional list of resources. You’re going to  see duplicates across these lists, but there are a few new names as well.

Via WBTV.com and @AP, I found a few other organizations include AmeriCares, which is preparing to deploy an emergency response team and collecting donations at http://americares.org

Lutheran World Relief has deployed its local staff to stricken areas and is appealing for $2.5 million to aid its recovery effort. To donate, go to http://lwr.org/donate/

American Jewish World Service is collecting money to provide directly to local groups in the Philippines. To donate, go to http://www.ajws.org

ABC-7 in San Francisco put this list of resources out, which includes a link to Google Person Finder and Relief Map.

Since I live in Philadelphia and want the community to know what is happening locally on victims’ behalf, I am also including these links below:

CatholicPhilly.com

Southeastern Pennsylvania chapter of the Red Cross

Philippine Disaster and Recovery Foundation — Donations to typhoon relief can be made via Paypal at the national federation’s website at www.faapi.org

Finally, I just want to give a shout-out to Geeklist Corps of Developers,  which is working on a collaborative initiative to create technology  that will help coordinate rescue efforts and ensure that emergency  supplies and food get where they need to in an optimum amount of  time. You can read more here.

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