Blog For The City

I Am: Strength, Values and Resilience of TANF Families

Last weekend marked the 20th anniversary of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) reform, and the Department of Human Services has begun to convene a working group and to craft a TANF extension policy.

This video, created by DC TANF families, and put together by Samantha Davis and Sequnely Gray, shows the strength, values, and resilience of families receiving assistance.

Bread for the City supports fixing the TANF time limit because children should always have their basic needs met.

Please watch, enjoy and share!

 

Just when you thought you were out…

….Bread for the City pulls you back in!

Let’s (re)meet our new(ish) Chief Development Officer, Andrea Messina! Eight years ago, she worked at Bread for the City before going on to business school, to different nonprofits, and even <gasp> to the private sector. But as many of our current and former staff who stay engaged at Bread can attest, we’re harder to shake than the mafia, so this summer Andrea returned to the Family to lead our fundraising efforts.

AM and KV (1)

Andrea (L), with former CDO Kristin, helped to launch our rooftop garden! 

Truth is, Andrea never really left.  Take a look at the creative ways she supported BFC during her time “away”:

  • She was a volunteer in our Food Pantry’s gleaning program Glean for the City in 2009.
  • She was one of the first volunteers at BFC’s rooftop garden in 2011 when we kicked off our urban agriculture program.
  • She joined our Bread and Butter Club in 2011.
  • She has been a frequent guest to the Good Hope Gala, and helps us secure donations for our auction every year.
  • In 2015, she taught weekly donation based yoga classes to benefit BFC!

There are so many cool ways to support BFC and we are glad Andrea did so many of them.  But, we’re even happier that she decided to come back.  As Chief Development Officer, Andrea is in charge of making sure we can afford to meet our strategic goals, help everyone who comes through our doors, and just keep the lights on every day. Plus, she will lead the effort to expand our Southeast Center through the largest capital campaign in Bread’s history.

We’re lucky to have her back and it seems the feeling is mutual. Andrea says, “I am in awe by the ways that Bread has evolved and expanded over the last decade.  But, I’m even more inspired by the ways that Bread has maintained its close-knit community, unmatched passion, and tireless commitment to service while more than doubling in size.”

If you have any questions or well wishes for Andrea, or want to grab a cup of coffee with her, you can reach her at amessina@breadforthecity.org.

Want to be a part of DC punk history?

Normally, Bread for the City reaches for go-go music when we want to celebrate. But for the next four weeks we’re embracing a different part of DC music history and going punk with Hamiltonian!

Kicking off on August 13th, Hamiltonian Gallery on U Street is playing host to an exciting and interactive exhibit: a series of all-ages punk shows in a structure that also grows wheat grass for “punk shots” of juice. Artist Naoko Wowsugi is a Hamiltonian Artists Fellow, and has held several successful exhibitions. For this latest work, titled Permacounterculture, she takes inspiration from the District’s punk rock scene as well as the city’s natural environment. And to make the connection between the earth and the music even sweeter, Hamiltonian is raising money from the exhibit for BFC’s City Orchard!

Since the spring, Naoko has been volunteering at City Orchard, Bread for the City’s 2.75 acre orchard in Beltsville, MD. She explains, “I like the idea of organic fresh produce for everyone, not just people who can afford it. The concept of equality and the spirit of sharing really inspired me!”

naoko

Naoko checks out the progress of the sprouting wheat grass seeds!

Working at City Orchard planted the seed (get it?!) of an idea: plants grow best when people are interacting with them, as the carbon dioxide that human breath produces is used by plants in the photosynthesis process. Since Naoko had also been going to local punk shows, it occurred to her that a venue where people were singing and dancing and jumping around would actually make a really healthy growing environment!

Plus, punk rock and agriculture had other connections, too. “Punk music and farming are both very energetic,” notes Naoko. “I was surprised that DC punk scene is into the idea of healthy living. And the punk community really tries to support each other and is inclusive, like the City Orchard project.”

If you’re interested in urban agriculture, art, and music, this is a must-see event. The exhibition will run from August 13 – September 10, 2016 with an opening reception and punk show on Saturday, August 13 from 6:30 – 10 pm. See here for more info on this awesome exhibit!logo

Permacounterculture is supported by the Awesome Foundation, Home Depot, Damaged City Fest, DC Punk Archives, in-kind support from the Washington Project for the Arts, donated vegan food for bands from &pizza, Timber Pizza, and Mellow Mushroom, and a plethora of individuals, including members of Bread for the City’s urban agriculture team.

Bread for the City’s City Orchard is funded in part by the University of the District of Columbia.

The Intern and the Orchard

Hi everyone!

I’m Ashley, a summer intern here at Bread for the City.

Usually, I’m sitting behind a desk in the development department helping with some behind the scenes work pertaining to a lot of interesting communications management tasks. Part of my responsibility is to know what goes on at Bread for the City, and so I took a day to step away from my desk to join the BFC staff and volunteers at City Orchard.

Ashley at OrchardBread for the City does an incredible job with making sure its clients have access to fresh and healthy foods, and I got to join this effort first hand.

Depending on the day, the tasks at City Orchard vary for the workers and volunteers. The day that I went, we focused on laying down and securing tarp in order to plant sweet potatoes. And then the planting commenced!

Ignoring the bright sun and heavy heat, I put on a pair of gloves and staked the tarp into the ground to make sure it was secured in place and wouldn’t wash away with any rainfall. While I was working on putting dowAshley at Orchard 1n the tarp, some other volunteers used small shovels to create holes in its center to make space for the sweet potato plants.

I grabbed a bundle of sweet potato plants and, one by one I made sure I could get the plant through the hole in the canvas. I dug into the ground to set the roots, and patted the surrounding dirt to make sure the plant was stable. That was it…I had planted yams! The whole cycle continued until all of the sweet potatoes were planted. In just one day, hundreds of sweet potato plants were planted that will be distributed to Bread for the City clients!

It was an incredible experience to join the Bread for the City staff and volunteers on just one day of many that they make an effort to help our organization and its clients.

 

A Message to the Bread for the City Community

Bread for the City Community,

Over the past month our country has been battered by tragedies in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Texas. These shootings remind us of two difficult truths: wishing we lived in a post-racial society doesn’t make it so, and the issue of race and all of its complexities will challenge us for years to come.

In response to these recent tragedies, several Bread staff members met to discuss the trauma of the shootings – both of police officers and those at the hands of police officers. In these discussions, we sought to address one central question: What does all of this chaos and pain mean for our work in social justice?

Many of you know that several years ago, Bread for the City made the commitment to pursue our social justice work through the lens of racial justice.  This meant we would first look to educate ourselves about the historic and social underpinnings of the racial tension that persists in our country. We have engaged our staff, Board members, and clients in trainings about the long history of racism in America. Through our daily work with clients and our own personal experiences, we cannot help but see how racial bias still permeates so many institutions in the country and continues to manifest itself in schools, the housing industry, and the justice system.

CEO George A. Jones

CEO George A. Jones

As leaders from both sides of the political spectrum have recognized, people of color have a different experience of American institutions than those who are white. We must all do a better job of understanding why many people of color view institutions with such suspicion. The recent gun violence has resulted in too many innocent people paying the ultimate price. But the divide in our communities and country is based on problems far more complicated than the headline police shootings. At the heart of the frustration and anger felt by so many people of color are the facts: their children attend public schools that fail to educate them; they are routinely locked out of the work force; they pay 50 to 60% of their income for housing; and they are profiled so systematically by the criminal justice system that they are far more likely to be arrested than their white neighbors suspected of the same crimes.

In our post-civil rights world, many of us have silently agreed that race doesn’t matter.  Sadly, this is magical thinking. We cannot wish away a deep-seated issue like racism.

Events like those in recent weeks and those that occurred not long ago in Ferguson, Baltimore and New York City sound a persistent alarm that real work must be done to address this difficult problem.

Bread for the City invites its community of partners to join us in our commitment to help make the systems in our organization, city and country more racially just.  For more information on how your organization can get involved in the fight for a more racially equitable DC, contact me at 202-386-7602.

In service,

George Jones

 

The Doctor is in!

You could practically feel the energy throughout the entire Bread for the City NW Center last Thursday as we officially welcomed the newest addition to our medical program–vision care!

Friends, neighbors, and family members (hi Mom!) came together to “cut the ribbon” and learn more about our clinic from the people who made it possible.

Vision Clinic ribbon cutting

Bread for the City’s Vision Clinic was a long time coming, and we wouldn’t have this oft-requested service without the support of our community. A huge thank you to the DC Primary Care Association, the DC Department of Health, the Joseph E. and Marjorie B. Jones Foundation, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, Aid Association for the Blind of the District of Columbia, the Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, countless staff and clients,  and of course, the amazing medical team at Bread who seamlessly integrated this new service into our medical home model. Three cheers to you all!

Last but not least, thank you to Dr. Rosan Choi, our resident ophthalmologist, who hit the ground running and makes sure our clients received the high quality care they deserve. We love you, Dr. Rosan!

If you’re interested in supporting Dr. Rosan’s work, please visit http://www.breadforthecity.org/visionclinic/ and make a gift today!

Juneteenth and Jubilee Soda

*Written by vegan celebrity chef, green living advocate and BFC Sustainable Agriculture team member Elijah Joy*

Hello my People! Let’s talk Juneteenth…

An internationally recognized day of observance, Juneteenth (June 19th, abbreviated), commemorates the day that presumably the last slaves in America were freed with the reading of The Emancipation by General Gordon Granger to enslaved residents of Galveston, Texas in 1865. Some historical texts have also noted that Juneteenth was originally known as the “Day of Jubilee” or “Jubilee Day”.  

jubilee soda 3Scholars are now discussing or challenging this prevailing view and some are rewriting the
narrative to include the fact that as many as 12 additional states included counties where slavery was still practiced in the US. But for time and tradition’s sake, I will leave you to research on your own.

In my own examination of traditional foods eaten during these celebrations, I discovered that “strawberry soda” was very much a part of the foodways of my ancestors on this day in history. Given the agrarian ways of early America and African-Americans, it makes sense. Here at the Bread for the City Orchard, the bounty of our rich strawberries harvest overfloweth. So, it definitely makes sense to produce a libation that honors this very foodways tradition for our observance of this day in African American history.

In honor of this day that has emphasized education and achievement, I have designed a strawberry soda with the organic strawberries from our City Orchard.  The subtle flavoring is induced by adding our own organic herbs.

I hope this recipe will inspire you to create a space to celebrate and honor our African-American ancestors —  including the unsung Black soldiers who fought with the Union in the Civil War.

jubilee soda 2Please make the FoodWays Strawberry Soda recipe your own and know that the fight for freedom and justice for all continues.

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 cups fresh strawberries – diced or quartered
  • 3-5 sprigs of fresh herbs i.e., basil or mint (optional)
  • 1 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 cup sparkling water
  • ice

Jubilee Blog Photot 2Directions: In a small saucepan, bring the strawberries, water, orange  juice  and sugar to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar has dissolved.  Continue to simmer  for 1 – 2 hours to reduce  the  mixture to a thick syrup.syrup. Cool, store in airtight container like a Mason Jar and place in the refrigerator.

For the Jubilee Soda, mix 1 part Strawberry syrup and 3 parts Soda or Sparking Water over Ice.  Garnish with Strawberries, Basil or Mint. Create the desired sweetness to your own taste buds and enjoy!

Dr. Randi celebrates 25 years of service to the District

Please join us in congratulating our fearless leader Dr. Randi Abramson on a quarter century of service as our Chief Medical Officer!
dr.randi
Dr. Randi’s kindness and knowledge have made her a favorite among our patients, and she truly embodies our values of dignity, respect, service, and justice.

“I could not be more proud of all she has accomplished, and I am blessed to be able to call her my mom.”– Eve Lieberman, Dr. Randi’s daughter.

Want to join in the love? Share your congrats on Twitter @BreadfortheCity or on Facebook. But the best recognition you can give is support of Dr. Randi’s beloved medical clinic. Will you give $25 in honor of her 25 years of committed service to the District?

Happy Breadiversary to my dear friend and colleague!

DC’s Housing Budget: Winning, Losing, and Building

The bad news is that DC’s housing crisis is way outpacing the city government’s political will to address it. The good news is that we’re organizing to change that.

This budget season, we joined other organizations in making modest asks which would have represented small dents in the city’s $13 billion budget. We won on some, and lost on others.

Bread client leader Zonia Godinez symbolically breaking down barriers to stability, as part of an action with Fair Budget Coalition outside the John A. Wilson Building

Bread client leader Zonia Godinez symbolically breaking down barriers to stability, as part of an action with Fair Budget Coalition outside the John A. Wilson Building

Bread for the City’s biggest priority was calling on the city to create a public housing fund, and to allocate $20 million for repair and restoration of public housing units. These repairs would improve people’s living conditions, and the restorations would convert blighted public housing units to livable homes – a quick and cost-efficient way to create places for people to live. We worked with groups like Fair Budget Coalition and longtime public housing organizers at Empower DC, and our leaders testified and lobbied elected officials, winning $15 million for the repair/restoration fund – a victory and a strong step, but not as much as we’d asked for, and not enough yet to cover the full need.

We also joined a Fair Budget Coalition call for $8.6 million in the Local Rent Supplement Program (LRSP), including $3.6M for the project-sponsor-based program (subsidies for housing providers to create affordable units) and $5M for tenant vouchers (subsidies that stay with individual people, so they can pay 30% of their income for units on the private market, up to a certain level of rent). Neither the Mayor Bowser nor the DC Council added new funds for LRSP, except for a $423,000 addition for vouchers for low-income, returning citizen seniors.

The DC Housing Authority wait list remains closed to new applicants, with as many as 41,000 people on it, sitting in wait for as long as 28 years. And soon after it was reported that DC has its highest homeless population in 13 years, the mayor and council passed a budget for Fiscal Year 2017 that includes tax cuts for the wealthy, and insufficient, minimal increases in funding for affordable housing programs.

Meanwhile, despite all the need in DC, a second consecutive round of tax cuts will be implemented in FY17, turning 100% of city revenue growth above the previous year’s projections into tax cuts. Some $47 million of revenue growth already went to tax cuts last year, with another $140 million to be triggered in the future.

Leaders from Bread, Fair Budget Coalition, and So Others Might Eat (SOME) lobby for affordable housing and other budget priorities at Councilmember Brandon Todd’s office.

Leaders from Bread, Fair Budget Coalition, and So Others Might Eat (SOME) lobby for affordable housing and other budget priorities at Council-member Brandon Todd’s office.

These rounds of tax cuts are severely undermining the city’s ability to adequately fund critical services. Referred to as tax triggers, the plan pushed last year by Council Chair Phil Mendelson led to a series of tax cuts for low- and middle-income people last year, followed, this year, by cuts to the business franchise tax and elimination of taxes on estates worth between $1 and $2 million.

Bread for the City’s community organizers are working hard to recruit strong, brilliant leaders from our client community who are in search of housing or who have experienced housing instability in other ways, and who want to build a movement for truly affordable housing in DC.

Over the last few months, over a dozen have testified at the Council for the first time, helped organize and/or attended their first rallies, helped organize and run campaign meetings, and more. We’re just at the beginning, and we plan to continue growing stronger community power and achieving bigger gains to house many more Washingtonians.

We hope and believe that the new faces on the DC Council represent a popular dissatisfaction with the status quo, and that Council-members Trayon White, Robert White, and Vince Gray will work with us to quell the housing crisis in Washington, DC. Either way, we’re just at the beginning, and we plan to continue growing stronger community power and achieving bigger gains to house many more Washingtonians.

DC Council Considers New DMV Bill

Last week, the DC Council held a joint committee hearing to address several Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) related bills. Bread for the City staff member, Kathleen Stephan, along with multiple community advocates testified in support of Bill 21-0736 Improving Access to ID Documents Act of 2016. This act was co-introduced by Council-members David Grosso and Yvette Alexander in acknowledgement of the financial burden that obtaining an identifying document poses for low income residents.

In the following excerpt from her testimony, Kathleen explains the need for fee waivers for identifying documents such as a birth certificates, non-drivers IDs and licenses:

DMV hearing June 2016

Patricia Hernandez – Casa Ruby, Luis Ayala – Casa Ruby, Priscilla Skillman – Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church Transition Assistance Program, Jesse Rabinowitz – Miriam’s Kitchen

Across the city, there is extremely limited financial support for identifying documents.  Many low income residents do not currently qualify to have the DMV fee for a non-drivers ID waived, and there is no fee waiver for a driver’s license or birth certificate.  There are few places that cover these costs for clients, and the availability has shrunk even further since Miriam’s Kitchen ended their financial program last year.

This bill is an important step towards removing a barrier that keeps low income District residents from accessing important opportunities to support themselves and their families.  This action by the DC Council will help the clients we serve obtain their IDs in order to obtain employment, educational opportunities, and housing.  Thus, being able to obtain an ID is a critical foundation for self-sufficiency and will, in the end, save the District money by having residents who are less dependent on government services for support.

Bread for the City has long advocated for more accessible and low-cost options for obtaining identifying documents. In May 2014, the DC DMV implemented federal REAL ID standards that have had a profound impact on low income residents’ abilities to prove their eligibility for an ID or license. Bread for the City has advocated for more accessible policies along with community organizations such as Children’s Law Center, DC Fiscal Policy Institute, Foundry United Methodist Church, Miriam’s Kitchen and Transition Assistance Program at the Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church. Representatives from these groups also gave testimony at the hearing and bolstered the importance of fee waivers to expanding ID access.

While Kathleen’s testimony focused primarily on fee waivers to expand ID access, other advocates and community members testified on Bill 21-0739, the Driver’s License Fair Access and Equity Amendment Act of 2016, a bill that Bread for the City also supports. This bill codifies that limited purpose credential seekers will no longer need to make an appointment in order to obtain an identifying document. It also ensures that the DMV provide interpretation services to all of their clients, thereby making IDs more accessible to all of our community members.

Bill 21-0738 Driver’s License Fair Access and Equity Amendment Act of 2016