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57 posts categorized "Children and Youth"

Mapping DACA: New Tool Tracks Philanthropy’s Investments in Program for Immigrant Youth

March 25, 2014

(Felecia Bartow is associate director at Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees.)

Headshot_Felecia_BartowIn June 2012, the Obama administration announced a new policy directive that provided the opportunity for nearly two million immigrant youth and young adults across the country to apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This temporary form of relief offers eligible immigrants a possible reprieve from the threat of deportation and has the potential to encourage immigrant students to continue and/or complete their education and enter the formal economy.

As word of this historic opportunity spread, foundations from California to New York and Oregon to North Carolina responded. Despite differences in grantmaking and geographic priorities, these funders seized the opportunity to meet the pressing needs of DACA-eligible immigrants in communities across the country by supporting a wide range of implementation activities, including expanding outreach efforts and eligibility screenings, and helping applicants meet educational requirements and cover the cost of the $465 application fee.

The Foundation Center and Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees are pleased to announce the launch of the DACA Grants Map, which provides the first-ever comprehensive overview of related investments. This tool offers information on the geographic areas served by DACA-related grants and grant details such as dollar amount, duration, date issued, strategies
supported, and investment type.

Collectively, these investments have had a direct and measureable impact on the lives of the more than half a million immigrant youth and young adults living, working, and contributing in communities across the country. With support from the philanthropic sector, the vast majority of these young people applied for DACA successfully.

We also hope the map serves to emphasize that work remains to be done. There are a million and a half youth and young adults who have yet to apply for DACA, many of whom represent the "hard-to-reach." These individuals face a variety of obstacles: a significant number do not meet the program's educational requirements; others cannot afford the application fee or need help with documentation; those in rural communities may lack access to services; and some face community-based stigma around their undocumented status.

Scan the map and you will notice large swathes of the country with little or no philanthropic activity specific to DACA implementation. Take Florida, an immigrant stronghold and home to the country's fourth-largest DACA-eligible population. Only one DACA-related grant has been reported in the state versus eighteen in North Carolina, despite Florida having nearly three times as many eligible immigrants. In short, we need to "fill the map."

A quarter of the way into the New Year, the fate of comprehensive immigration reform efforts remains uncertain. Meanwhile, there are thousands of immigrant youth and young adults for whom a successful DACA application would take them a step closer to the American Dream. As we wait for action on the federal level, we must seize the available opportunities — and assure that we fulfill the promise of DACA.

— Felecia Bartow

For additional information and funding recommendations, visit GCIR's DACA resource page, or contact Michael Kavate, research and communications associate. And if you don’t see your organization’s grants listed, there is still time to submit them, as the map will be updated on a quarterly basis.

Sincere thanks are owed to all who helped this project, with special recognition to the tireless efforts of Walter Barrientos, GCIR project manager; Matthew Ross, manager of special data projects at the Foundation Center; and Nina Gantcheva, the center's manager of strategic philanthropy.

Philanthropy, the Affordable Care Act, and Boys and Men of Color

February 26, 2014

(Jordan Medina is health policy fellow at the Greenlining Institute, where he co-authored the report Pathways Out of Poverty: Boys and Men of Color and Jobs in the Health Sector.)

Headshot_jordan_medinaThe United States faces a crisis. We have a staggering racial wealth gap — for every $1 a white family has in assets, the median Latino family has about 7 cents, while the median black family has less than 6 cents. One reason for that gap is that too many boys and men of color are uneducated, disengaged, and unemployed.

This isn't a new problem, but changing racial demographics mean that politicians and business leaders must start paying attention to boys and men of color if America is to remain economically competitive in the twenty-first century. Fortunately, as with every problem, there's a solution. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) presents stakeholders with an incredible opportunity to create a culturally competent health workforce while simultaneously lowering the unemployment rate for boys and men of color. The question is: Do we have the courage and political will to see it through?

The ACA expands healthcare coverage to millions of Americans, mainly those too cash-poor to afford it on their own and those suffering from pre-existing conditions. People of color are disproportionately represented in both groups, while the influx of newly eligible consumers puts pressure on the healthcare and health services industry to expand its workforce to meet the increased demand for care. Given the high levels of unemployment in communities of color, considerable time and money should be spent figuring out ways to better prepare boys and men of color for jobs in the health sector.

This may sound like a difficult task, but a lot of the groundwork already has been laid. A new report I co-authored for the Greenlining Institute highlights some of the ways in which California, the nation's most populous state and long an incubator of public policy experiments, is forging ahead with plans to better integrate boys and men of color into the health workforce.

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‘Under Construction’: Center for Urban Families - Baltimore, Maryland

February 24, 2014

Under-construction-logoUnder Construction is a multimedia online exhibit showcasing some of the best and brightest organizations working with males of color. The UC team of filmmakers, photographers, writers, and nonprofit experts worked directly with each of these organizations for several weeks. The collaborations yielded comprehensive portraits of the services men of color receive. Each profile features a short video, a photography exhibit, a visual program model, and a narrative essay detailing the efforts of these organizations.

Under Construction is a project of Frontline Solutions and was made possible through the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

To learn more about the Center for Urban Families, visit BMAfunders.org.

Joseph Thomas knows how deterioration works. It is the same process for the shuttered blocks of West Baltimore where he was a boy as it is for the man who has no one to talk to. The facades are the last thing to go.

"In prison you have a lot of time to think," says Thomas, who served two years. A quiet, gentle man, he thought about how he had drifted through life since an early age with no one to steer him. Most of all, he thought about his daughters, wondering if he still had a chance to give them what he didn't have, a positive role model. Today, you listen to him talk about his teenage girls, what it means to make it to one of their badminton games, and he almost blushes. He was always in their lives, but he has learned that there are different kinds of presence.

Thomas, 38, is one of more than twenty thousand people who have come through the doors of Baltimore's Center for Urban Families (CFUF), where fatherhood and employment courses re-order their ideas about what a man's life can mean to his family and to the neighborhoods they call home.

The center operates out of an angular, bastion-like building here in Sandtown, where Thomas was a boy. "It was wild," he says. "It was drugs on every corner. It was people getting killed." But in the center's halls, people carry themselves with a refined confidence. They show up on time and sit around boardroom tables, or in large, university-like classrooms. And Thomas, like everybody else, is wearing a suit and tie. "The training wasn't just about training for a job," he says. "It was about succeeding in life."

Founded in 1999 by a former drug addict, the Center for Urban Families has become a model for how to reach urban men, perhaps the country's most underserved demographic. Here in a community that many think of as a "city of neighborhoods," the center's work targets the hardest of these, the street corners that have found infamy as the backdrop of popular television crime shows like The Wire and Homicide: Life on the Streets.

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'A Small Committed Minority of Believers'

February 18, 2014

(Shawn Dove is campaign manager for the Open Society Foundations Campaign for Black Male Achievement. In a December 2012 Newsmaker interview with PND, he discussed the report Where Do We Go From Here? Philanthropic Support for Black Men and Boys.)

Headshot_Shawn Dove_A generation ago, Martin Luther King, Jr. asserted in Where Do We Go From Here, Chaos or Community?, the last book he published before he was assassinated, that "it will take…a small committed minority [of believers] to work unrelentingly to win the uncommitted majority. Such a group may well transform America's greatest dilemma into her most glorious opportunity."

The great dilemma that King wrote about in 1967 still gnaws at the roots of a nation that was founded on a premise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness but was built on a foundation of racial and gender inequality. And while today no single group of people in America can claim that it alone is marginalized — sadly, there are many such groups — it is hard to dispute that disparities faced by black men and boys across a number of indicators, including incarceration, academic achievement, and unemployment, paint a picture of their systemic exclusion from the American mainstream.

The thorny issue of black men and their standing in American society is, of course, not a new one. Yet in light of recent advances in the emerging field of black male achievement, there is reason to hope that the small committed minority of believers who have been working hard to improve the life outcomes and perceptions of black men and boys are swaying the majority of non-believers.

By now, most people have heard that President Obama intends to launch a significant new effort "to bolster the lives of young men of color" in America. Building on momentum that has been growing over recent years, the public rollout of My Brother's Keeper, as the initiative is called, represents a bold response to the challenges confronting so many young men of color. Without a doubt, this is an historic moment for the work and aspirations of many leaders working within and outside philanthropy who have devoted their lives to creating an America where black men and boys can compete on an even playing field of opportunity and realize their full potential.

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (January 2014)

February 01, 2014

Yes, it's been cold, but look on the bright side: There are only twenty-eight days in February. While you're waiting for warmer temps to arrive, why not pour yourself a cup of something warm and join us as we revisit the most popular posts here on PhilanTopic in January:

What have you been reading/watching/listening to? Feel free to share your favorites in the comments section below....

Fifty Years After the War on Poverty, Americans Want to Renew a National Commitment

January 20, 2014

(Deborah Weinstein is executive director of the Coalition on Human Needs, a partner in the Half in Ten campaign.)

Headshot_deborah_weinsteinIf your refrigerator is empty and you’re not sure when you’ll be eating your next meal, reflecting on the fiftieth anniversary of the War on Poverty may not be your first priority. Unfortunately, a recent survey conducted by Half in Ten, an organization dedicated to cutting the poverty rate in America by 50 percent within ten years, finds that having trouble paying for necessities is a fact of life for at least a quarter of all Americans. And more than half of all Americans say that someone in their immediate or extended family is poor. For millions of struggling families, building a pathway out of poverty is an urgent matter.

Americans, regardless of socioeconomic status, should share this sense of urgency. But wanting to do something about poverty isn't enough. We need to take a hard look at why poverty persists and what works to reduce it. At a time when people increasingly are aware of growing inequality and hardship in America, the fiftieth anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson's speech launching the War on Poverty is a good opportunity to do so. In the survey conducted by Half in Ten, nearly two-thirds of respondents said they believe poverty stems from jobs that do not pay enough and/or from lack of education and health care, while only one in four ascribed poverty to bad personal choices or irresponsibility. Many see — in their own lives or in the experiences of friends and relatives — that the economy is failing to provide people with opportunities to move up, let alone support a family. They are correct. According to a new report from the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality, in the three years after the "official" end of the Great Recession, 99 percent of Americans saw their incomes grow by less than 1 percent, while income for the richest 1 percent rose 31 percent. Yes, the economy has grown since the recession, but most Americans are not sharing in the gains.

What's more, an overwhelming majority of Americans (86 percent) agree that government has a responsibility to take action to reduce poverty, while at least eight in ten survey respondents support expanded nutrition assistance, affordable quality child care, universal pre-K education, and raising the minimum wage as steps toward that goal. The War on Poverty introduced many initiatives in these areas that did help to reduce poverty in America. Over a period of four years, LBJ and his team managed to push a stunningly comprehensive package of legislation through Congress, creating the food stamp program, Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start, college affordability programs, job training, housing, and civil rights laws, as well as increasing Social Security benefits. Indeed, a recent Columbia University study shows that when income from food stamps and low-income tax credits is included in poverty calculations, the U.S. poverty rate declined from 26 percent in 1967 to 16 percent in 2012. Similarly, a long-term look at Head Start program participants found they were more likely to finish high school and less likely to turn to crime than low-income children who didn’t participate in Head Start.

Thanks to Johnson's War on Poverty, the official poverty rate in America was cut in half over little more than a decade, bottoming out at 11.1 percent in 1973. Then it began to rise again. Some in Congress who oppose spending federal dollars on programs for the poor point to today's unacceptably high poverty rate to argue that the War on Poverty failed. That is not true. Substantial progress was made, but it wasn't enough to overcome the changes that have transformed the American economy over the last thirty years.

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5 Questions for...Sterling Speirn, President, W.K. Kellogg Foundation

January 03, 2014

Breakfast cereal pioneer Will Keith Kellogg established the foundation that bears his name in 1930. Known as the W.K. Kellogg Child Welfare Foundation in its original incarnation, the foundation spent its first decade working mainly in and around its hometown of Battle Creek, Michigan, with a focus on improving the health of children in the region. Over the decades, the foundation's interests grew in line with its assets; by its seventy-fifth anniversary in 2005, those assets totaled some $6 billion, putting the foundation among the largest private philanthropic organizations in the world, even as a focus on children remained a mainstay of its grantmaking portfolio.

Widely viewed as one of the more effective private philanthropies in the U.S., the foundation benefited over the years from steady leadership provided by a handful of thoughtful, dedicated chief executives. After stints as a middle school English teacher, a lawyer, and president/CEO of the Peninsula Community Foundation (1992-2005), Sterling Speirn became the eighth person to lead the foundation in January 2006.

PND chatted with Speirn in December as he was celebrating the launch of a new community leadership initiative and getting ready to step down as president/CEO after nearly eight years. His successor, La June Montgomery Tabron, is a twenty-five year veteran of the foundation and the first woman and African American to serve in that position.

Headshot_sterling_speirnPhilanthropy News Digest: The announcement of your community leadership initiative describes it as Kellogg's return to leadership development. When did Kellogg exit that space? And how does the new initiative differ from the foundation's previous efforts in the leadership development area?

Sterling Speirn: Well, we never really exited leadership development. We've had a variety of programs over the years -- the one we're probably best known for was the Kellogg National Leadership Program, which ran for fifteen, sixteen years, from the 1980s to the 1990s. But since then we've funded leadership programs in the health professions and in food policy work, and we've done leadership work in terms of endowed professorships and sustainable agriculture. We're always just sort of coming back into the space in different ways.

How this is different from previous Kellogg leadership development initiatives is that it's place- as well as category-focused. The overarching framework for the initiative is vulnerable children, but we have four geographic areas of focus -- New Mexico, Mississippi, Michigan and New Orleans, with one national cohort of racial equity fellows. So, it's both place-based and, programmatically speaking, focused on kids and our existing racial equity work.

PND: The initiative seems to be built around a bottom-up as opposed to top-down approach. Is that an accurate characterization?

SS: I don't know if I'd say top-down or bottom-up. It's sort of inside-out, in that it involves a healthy cross-section of leaders, young and emerging as well as older. It's probably more accurate to say it's a diverse approach to identifying and developing leaders. And, again, because it's place-focused, we expect to end up with cohorts comprised of fellows from very different domains -- education, health, family economic security, and so on. It's different, too, because we plan to emphasize not just individual leadership work, but the connective work that unites each cohort of fellows, with the goal of developing not just individual leaders but networks of leaders.

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Compensating for Your Philanthropic Blind Spots

December 17, 2013

(Caroline Woodruff is a philanthropy advisor at Bessemer Trust, where she helps individual clients, families, and foundations develop strategies to meet their philanthropic and intergenerational legacy goals. Founded in 1907, Bessemer Trust is a privately owned wealth and investment management firm that serves ultra-high-net-worth families and their foundations and endowments.)

Vivienne_Harr_TwitterIPOFor those who may have missed one of her viral tweets, Vivienne Harr is the new face of the movement to end child slavery. Vivienne has raised more than $100,000 -- so far -- to eradicate child slavery by selling lemonade. (She's pictured here ringing the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange to commemorate Twitter's initial public offering on November 7, 2013.)

Vivienne was a featured guest at a gathering for Bay Area philanthropists hosted several weeks ago by the Marin Community Foundation (MCF). I attended to hear MCF president and CEO Tom Peters moderate a session with my colleague Paul Connolly, director of Philanthropic Advisory Services at Bessemer Trust, in which Paul discussed the pros and cons of what he called "moneyball philanthropy" -- a data-driven and results-oriented approach to grantmaking. At the same session, members of the audience described their common struggle to balance the "head" and "heart" in their philanthropy.

Over the years, I've observed that donors typically fall somewhere on a spectrum, with a highly intuitive mode of giving propelled by passion at one end and a very technocratic approach focused more on logic, outcomes, and data at the other. Sometimes, leaning too much toward one end of the spectrum can negatively affect results. Indeed, during the session with Paul and Tom, it became clear how important it is to identify "blind spots" in one's grantmaking practice and find others to complement your particular inclinations.

Vivienne's story is an impressive example of a donor who is driven by heart. After seeing a photo of two boys in child slavery, she set an audacious goal to do something about it: sell lemonade from her neighborhood roadside stand for 365 days and raise $100,000. In less than six months, she had surpassed her target and decided to aim even higher. She wanted to create a socially conscious company to bottle her product, brand it as "Make a Stand Lemon-Aid," and leverage a portion of the gross proceeds to support her philanthropy.

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Foundations as a Catalyst for Improved Health Outcomes

October 25, 2013

(Garth Graham, MD, MPH, is president of the Aetna Foundation, which works to strengthen disease prevention programs, revitalize neighborhoods, support the arts, provide assistance to those in need, and empower the diverse voices that shape our nation.)

Headshot_garth_grahamThrough grants and support for research, foundations are uniquely positioned to serve as catalysts for social change in a way that conventional businesses and other nonprofits are not. We also operate in a space that provides us with the rare opportunity to bring together policy makers, corporations, experts, and community organizations to look holistically at an issue and promote the changes needed to achieve our goals.

As a physician and in my new role as the president of the Aetna Foundation, I am reminded every day of the responsibility my colleagues and I have to improve the health of children and adults and to make our healthcare system more equitable and effective. Over the years, Aetna and the Aetna Foundation have strengthened disease prevention programs, helped revitalize neighborhoods, supported the arts, provided aid to those in need, and listened to the diverse voices that shape our nation.

In addition to promoting racial and ethnic equity in health and promoting integrated and well-coordinated health care, one of our priority areas is fighting obesity. While childhood obesity rates in the U.S. are starting to level off, 5 percent of American children and teens are severely obese, which, according to new information from the American Heart Association, puts them at risk for premature heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

We have worked, for example, to better understand and evaluate how changes in food access and choice affect consumption patterns and health outcomes. We have funded partners who look at different parts of the food supply chain to help us understand how best to influence positive behavior changes related to healthy eating. And through strategic partnerships with a range of organizations, we have been able to gather data about how these programs work.

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Mobilizing for Good

September 25, 2013

(Todd Woodward is vice president of brand, public relations, and corporate social responsibility at Amway.)

Headshot_todd_woodwardAt my office at Amway World Headquarters, I am surrounded by photographs of children from all over the world who've been helped by the Amway One by One Campaign for Children -- a young child receiving a life-saving series of immunizations for the first time, a sick child in a playroom built just for patients like him in a hospital in rural Russia, and others in different yet similar situations. What they have in common is that they received critically needed services and support thanks to Amway, its business owners, and employees who live, work, and play in communities around the globe, from the West Michigan town where our company was founded more than fifty years ago to a small fishing port in rural China.

What Amway does best is mobilize people toward a goal. In our business model, an Amway business owner is rewarded for selling products and for mentoring others eager to earn income doing the same; by working together to achieve sales targets, the group also wins bonuses. Isn't philanthropy a lot like that? What starts as a commitment to give and a philosophy that we have something of value to offer others -- money, time, or expertise -- simply grows into a movement.

The Amway One by One Campaign for Children started ten years ago when we realized that most of the markets where we'd been doing business for years had individually embraced children's causes. Amway business owners and employees around the globe were taking the initiative to make a difference in children's lives -- starting an afterschool program for at-risk middle-schoolers, buying desks for students who had none, or bringing play to hospitals for terminally ill children. Together, we have helped more than ten million children by donating $190 million in funding and 2.7 million volunteer hours.

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Creating Enduring Value at a Corporate Foundation: Bridging the Gap Between Brand and Cause

September 04, 2013

(Christine Park is president of the New York Life Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the New York Life Company. Since its inception in 1979, the foundation has made nearly $170 million in charitable contributions to national and local nonprofits.)

Headshot_chris_parkOver more than twenty years as a corporate grantmaker, few things have left a deeper and more lasting impression on me than the professionalism, commitment to change, and caring of my colleagues in the world of corporate foundations. Of course, having the type of meaningful, long-term impact we all aspire to is easier said than done.

Effecting social change as a corporate foundation head can be challenging -- but the ability to make a difference is enormous when you can marshal the attention and resources of your organization, deploy them in a way that is focused, innovative and flexible, and work in true partnership with your grantees. At the New York Life Foundation, we've been able to do just that through an innovative, business-aligned, and issues-focused advocacy approach. To clarify: our approach is not about engaging in Advocacy in the traditional sense -- that is, politically focused efforts to influence public policy or resource allocation decisions on issues where there are frequently divergent points of view. Instead, we practice advocacy with a lower case "a" -- with a focus on raising awareness, education, and public concern for issues where there is a clear and compelling need and little rational dispute as to the merits of the issue. I'd like to share the story of one such campaign.

* * * *

It has been estimated that one in seven Americans lose a parent or sibling before age 20. The death of a loved one is incredibly hard and isolating for children, engendering feelings of sadness, anger, loneliness, confusion, and guilt -- emotions that all too often are suffered in isolation.

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Eye On: John Caudwell

August 08, 2013

(Caroline Broadhurst is director of Community Care Projects at the Rank Foundation and, through the Clore Social Leadership Programme, a visiting fellow at the Foundation Center. This is the first of a series of post she'll be writing about the motivations of UK donors who have signed the Giving Pledge. For more about John Caudwell and the other Giving Pledgers, visit the Foundation Center's Eye on the Giving Pledge.)

Headshot_john_caudwellFrom modest beginnings, 60-year-old John David Caudwell has established himself as one of the most successful English businessmen in modern times. After leaving school before earning what in the U.S. would've been his high-school diploma, Caudwell went to work for Michelin, the French tire manufacturer at the company’s factory in the West Midlands. Not content to remain an engineering foreman, however, he nurtured his entrepreneurial instincts and soon began to create money-making ventures, including a corner shop and mail-order motorcycle clothing business.

Combining his mechanical knowledge -- he earned an HNC in mechanical engineering while working at Michelin -- and his growing business experience, Caudwell eventually set up a car dealership, with many of his former Michelin factory friends among his loyal customers. Displaying the entrepreneurial sensibility that would become his trademark, in 1987 he took a chance on the nascent mobile phone industry, starting Midland Mobile Phones with his brother, Brian. Despite running at a loss in its first few years, the business turned into a huge success, and by the 2000s the company, by then called Phones4U, was the largest independent distributor of cellular phones in the UK, selling an average of 26 phones every minute and earning more than $1.5 billion annually.

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Food for Thought: Work Together to Fight Hunger

July 15, 2013

(Former Arkansas state senator John Brown is president of the Windgate Charitable Foundation. A version of this post originally appeared as a special to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.)

Hunger-1Fifty million people in the U.S., and one in four children, don't know where their next meal is coming from, despite our country having the means to provide nutritious, affordable food for all Americans.

Last fall at the Conference of Southwest Foundations' annual meeting, my colleagues and I watched clips from A Place at the Table, a documentary that examines the many issues hunger causes and provides insight into what life is like for the millions of people in America who suffer from it. Most of the people featured in the film were working but just did not make enough money to put food on the table for the entire month. Many of them did not qualify for food stamps or bridge cards.

We all left the conference with a new perspective and appreciation of the gravity of the hunger problem in America. It was a wake-up call.

The Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, a statewide alliance focused on hunger relief, education and advocacy, estimates that on any given night more than 560,000 of our fellow Arkansans will go to bed with an empty, gnawing ache in their bellies. One in six of our neighbors cannot put food on the table for their family. It isn't because we don't have enough food. The cause is poverty.

Nineteen percent of Arkansans live below the poverty line and often don't have the money to buy milk and bread, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2011 American Community Survey. Out of the millions of Americans who are food-insecure, a lot of them are right here in the Natural State. In fact, Arkansas is right at the top of the USDA's list of states with the most food-insecure households.

Hunger is a serious economic, social, and cultural threat -- to communities here in Arkansas as well as across the nation. Indeed, according to a 2011 report from the Center for American Progress and Brandeis University, "hunger costs our nation at least $167.5 billion due to the combination of lost economic productivity per year, more expensive public education because of the rising costs of poor education outcomes, avoidable health-care costs, and the cost of charity to keep families fed."

The effects of hunger on children's health and educational achievement are especially alarming. Research conducted by Children's HealthWatch and reported on by Feeding America shows that food-insecure children are 90 percent more likely than kids from food-secure homes to have their overall health reported as "fair/poor" rather than "excellent/ good." And a 2012 survey of public school teachers by Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry campaign shows hungry students struggle with poor academic performance, behavior problems, and health issues.

The good news is that the problem can be solved if we, as Americans, agree that making healthy food available and affordable for all is in our best interests.

I recently toured the Arkansas Foodbank with a group of grantmakers from private foundations across the Southwest to learn more about how the agency is addressing the problem of hunger in the state. The foodbank is a member of the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, which was formed almost ten years ago with the support, encouragement, and financial assistance of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation. Today it provides more than twenty million pounds of food annually to help feed people in need. Collaboration has helped the alliance make great strides in the fight against hunger in Arkansas and is something the two hundred and forty members of the Conference of Southwest Foundations see as key to eliminating food insecurity in the region.

A lot of people think that it's up to government to fix big problems -- and, yes, philanthropic and government assistance are part of the solution to ending hunger in America. But they're not enough. The fact is, eliminating something as monumental as hunger -- in Arkansas and nationwide -- will require a commitment by each and every one of us to come together to make sure that every family is able to feed itself and no child ever goes hungry.

-- John Brown

'Talking Good' With Joe Jones, President/CEO, Center for Urban Families

June 15, 2013

Just in time for Father's Day, our friend Rich Polt at Communicate Good has posted the inaugural on-camera interview in his Talking GOOD series, a regular feature spotlighting the good works of "citizen philanthropists" -- purpose-driven individuals whose commitment to a cause is a central aspect of their being.

In the video, Joe Jones, a former drug addict and repeat offender who had an epiphany in a Baltimore City courtroom, got himself off drugs, and went on to found the Center for Urban Families, talks about the first time he felt like a father.

In the accompanying transcript, Jones talks with Polt about his purpose in life, how his work with BRFP has changed him, and the burning question he would like to pose to his community. Enjoy.

And Happy Father's Day to all you fathers out there!

-- Mitch Nauffts

Rising Risk and Rising Tides: Can We Catch the Wave?

April 19, 2013

(Rachel Leon is executive director of the Environmental Grantmakers Association.)

Headshot_rachel_leonSince its creation in 1970, Earth Day has helped bridge the gap between people and the planet, connecting us to the ground we stand on. For Extreme Weather Earth Day 2013, it is vital we reaffirm that connection as we confront global challenges and increasingly common extreme weather events in our own backyards.

At a recent conference, Gina McCarthy, the Obama administration's nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency, articulated two priorities for us as a nation and community: finding solutions to problems of climate change, and getting kids outside. These macro and micro pieces fit together and can help show the way to a more sustainable future.

My mother likes to tell the story of my first speech, which I gave when I was three and which included a plea for more parks in our community. I grew up in Schenectady, New York, in an inner-city neighborhood; our playground was a vacant lot full of metal pipes and glass, and that speech was the beginning of my personal activism and connection to the outdoors.

Ultimately, the community, with a huge contribution from my mom, succeeded in getting a new park built. And, thanks in part to that experience, I was drawn to issues of poverty and inequality as I got older. I really didn't reconnect with environmental issues, however, until I found myself working at a statewide anti-hunger organization. Our agenda included getting food stamps accepted at farmers markets so as to encourage fresh food choices for all families, regardless of income. At the time, I didn't identify as an environmentalist, and yet my work was absolutely connected to the environment. That perception, that people working for a better planet are somehow different from those working to address poverty, inequality, or other social issues, is all too common -- and one we absolutely need to address if we hope to build an engaged community that spans all interests and sectors.

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