Archive for category Local
KERA on point for what is really going on – has this on the state of hunger in the State:
A report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture released this week shows that Texas is the second worst in the nation when it comes to hunger, with some 16.3 percent of the households surveyed reporting low or very low food security for the period between 2006 and 2008.
Families facing very low food security in Texas reached 5.7 percent.
Overall, the percentage of families facing hunger reached 12.2 percent.
Mississippi reported the highest percentage of families facing hunger at 17.4 percent.
This year, agencies working with the North Texas Food Bank reported demand from families seeking help for the first time rose 36 percent, and distribution has grown by 46 percent.
Sharply rising unemployment and lengthy administrative delays processing food stamps have exacerbated the situation for many families.
Read the entire report from the Department of Agriculture and learn more about how community organizations are helping struggling families in North Texas on the Community Voices page of KERA’s Economy Web site.
Representatives from several organizations, including 2-1-1 Texas and the North Texas Food Bank and Tarrant Area Food Bank, can help families locate food pantries in their area and help them apply for food stamps.
As the Food Banks reach out for funds for food – others start to grow it – I think we will look back at this time and see that it birthed a whole new approach to food – local community grown food. A revolution as great as agriculture itself.
by Jennifer Guerra
Joanne Palek and her brother, Richard, have lived on West Court Street in Flint for 10 years. A few years ago, the abandoned house next door burned down. So they bought the empty lot from the Genesee County Land Bank for exactly $1.00, and then they started to plant.
“We had carrots, we had green beans, we put in broccoli this year, but it didn’t do anything,” explains Palek.
There’s yet another abandoned house on the other side of Palek. As soon as the city pays to tear the house down, Palek says she’ll likely buy that lot too.
“And I know that it’s gonna cost me in tax money and I’m not that flush,” says Palek. “But I would make sure the taxes were paid and Flint got the money for it, whereas right now they’re not getting anything.”
She’s right. Vacant land doesn’t bring in any money for the city. In fact, an Emory University study shows that failure to collect even two percent of property taxes from abandoned houses translates into $3 billion in lost revenue for a city.
It’s the Land Bank’s role to find new uses for all that foreclosed property.
Christina Kelly works at the Land Bank. She says they’ve sold more than 400 empty lots to residents like Palek, though the lots are more this year. They cost $25 instead of $1. But she says it’s still a good deal, not only for the person who buys the lot, but for the neighborhood.
“It actually is very transformative in a neighborhood when you have lots that are gardened and cared for by the community, you can really see visual changes in the surrounding properties,” says Kelly.
The Land Bank has teamed up with a bunch of other groups to form an umbrella organization called Edible Flint. It’s basically a one-stop shop for all your urban gardening needs. The Land Bank provides the land, some materials and support.
“Michigan State Extension provides training and seeds and plants as they are available,” says Kelly. “The Ruth Mott Foundation provides training and technical assistance, and Salem Housing has a tool bank. Any one of those is not as valuable as all of them together.”
And it’s not just for people who want to buy property. Groups can adopt lots for free and get help from Edible Flint. Edible Flint will supply seeds, plants, tools, even a master gardener, anything to get people to care for the vacant lots in their community and help cut down on the city’s huge blight problem.
Bobby Jackson runs the Mission of Hope Day Shelter in Flint. He adopted two vacant lots and planted all kinds of veggies.
Jackson points out all the vegetables in his garden: kale, collard greens, broccoli, cabbage, basil, cilantro.
Anyone in the neighborhood is allowed to come and pick vegetables. Several churches brought their entire congregations to eat from the garden. But Jackson says it’s not just about food.
“The neighbors commended us for making the whole area look better because it was just overgrown and nothing there. And now they had opportunity to have a place to come and share in the work because people that didn’t know their neighbor four houses down met in the garden.”
And he says, since the garden went in, there’s been hardly any vandalism in the neighborhood.
Now, it’s important to note that not every vacant lot can grow vegetables. And while Edible Flint tests the soil, the still a chance of lead and PCBs and asbestos, since Flint was a big manufacturing town back in its hey day.
Still, Joan Nassauer, a professor of landscape architecture at the University of Michigan, says rust belt cities like Flint and Detroit can still turn all those vacant lots into natural assets, even if it’s just a pleasant open green space that gets mowed on a regular basis.
“In a kind of ironic way,” says Nassauer, “these cities that are facing abandoned property, they have the opportunity right now to pause and do it better.”
So, there may not be a lot of hope for all the abandoned and dilapidated houses in Flint that have fallen into foreclosure, but the land still has room to grow.
Here is a snip and link to a great post by KERA on the North Texas Food Bank – As more people are stretched why not start to think of the Food Bank as the possible centre of a local food system where the system expands from a donation model to a local supply model where people learn also how to grow and make food for each other?
The North Texas Food Bank is working to expand its reach to meet the growing demand and is in its second year of a campaign to narrow the gap between available services and demand by expanding annual access to 50 million meals.
Last year, it provided access to 37 million meals.
The nonprofit agency was created in 1982 to pull together efforts to feed hungry residents of 13 counties, securing donations of surplus unmarketable, but wholesome, food and grocery products to distribute throughout its network. Last year, the agency distributed more than 39 million pounds of food through partner agencies in Dallas, Denton, Collin, Fannin, Rockwall, Hunt, Grayson, Kaufman, Ellis, Navarro, Lamar, Delta and Hopkins counties.
Food collected by the North Texas Food Bank is distributed through 291 agencies, supporting 1,146 feeding and education programs.
Is this an idea that is ripe for Public Stations to add to their work on FTMC? Would it not be the same kind of work – helping glue the community together – telling the stories etc?
WBUR is seeing a new story in Mass – the crisis is now affecting everyone.The crisis is growing in intensity and has momentum. The key is employment.
Also when you look at the end of the story, it also raises a new issue – the mega banks are protected but the local crisis is putting intolerable pressure on the local banks. It is the smaller banks that are failing.
The reason for these auctions is not the crazy interest-rate mortgages. It’s the recession. Nowadays, people are losing their homes the way they used to before the sub-prime crisis.
“Historically, people lost their home when they lost their job, they lost their health or they lost their spouse,” says Nick Retsinas, a housing market economist at Harvard University.
Unemployment is to blame again today. The number of foreclosure proceedings in Massachusetts has jumped an alarming 150 percent. (My emphasis)
In fact, people under foreclosure I talked to in Sudbury didn’t want to be interviewed for this story. They said they’re ashamed — to have lost their jobs; to have run out of savings; to not be able to make their payments.
Whitney Tilson, a Harvard Business School grad and money manager, said, “the number of distressed homes coming through the pipeline has actually never been greater than right now.”
Tilson says Sudbury is a good example of what this coming wave could do to the market. Only seven homes above $1,000,000 have sold in the town this year. Last year it was 43, and that was a bad year.
“The listed prices appear to show that prices are holding up, but that’s phony,” Tilson says. “So what breaks the logjam? The wave of foreclosures working their way through the pipeline.”
Foreclosed properties priced to sell will push housing prices down and push more homeowners under water and into foreclosure. And that could really hurt regional banks.
Unlike the sub prime mortgage crisis — which hammered national mortgage companies — in this instance, local banks carry more of these loans. When Massachusetts banks stand to lose as much as a few hundred thousand dollars a pop, they get more conservative about lending. Tilson says that will suppress economic recovery.
CPB have put our project on the front page of their site – Here is the link to the letter that Jack Galmiche sent on your behalf to Pat Harrison. In a quiet way, I think that we are making history. Proving to others and to ourselves how we can become a powerful agency for good in our communities.
Here is a find by Mark Ramsey – whose opinion I value more than most:
It’s Not About “Being Local”
When you can’t compete with the same headlines folks can get everywhere else, you focus on the local stories they can’t get anywhere else.
That’s how they did it at this small-town newspaper.
It’s not about “being local,” my broadcasting friends. It’s about mattering to your local community because what you do there is essential and irreplaceable.
Never confuse the two.
Here’s the video from the NBC Nightly News. Click the post title if the embed is invisible.
Here is a letter received by Scott Gowans at WOSU in Columbus. It shows to me the challenge we are all up against and why our work is so important. For is not the very fabric of our society being eroded? Without a concerted and group effort what will happen?
Dear Scott Gowans,
I ran into your article on http://www.columbusmortgagecrisis.org/ while searching for any info to help out my x-in laws. They are the only parents I have and I’ve exhausted myself trying to come up with some help for them. My father was an electrician for 40 years on and off at Elite Electric which was located in Johnstown, but relocated to Columbus near 161 and Cleveland Ave, making $40,000 a year. My mother works as a state tested nursing assistant for Friendship Village of Columbus for over 13 years now making just shy of $20,000 a year.
They have taken in my daughter, accepted her as their granddaughter and have helped me by placing her in their home while we work with her with her counseling.
Sadly, my father was laid off in a split second. He has been unemployed for a few months now, and has fallen behind on his mortgage. After contacting the “save the dream” program and a few other help links I had found for them, they are still at a dead end, and my father is struggling to become employed again to save their home. The home has been passed down in his family for some generations now. It is so saddening to me to be so helpless after they have stepped in and have been my parents and grandparents to my children since January 2003.
It’s frightening how fast and unexpectedly something like this can happen. He has so many trades, and has over 40 years of electrician service under his belt. He was the president of the Mid Ohio Ford Club since I have met him. He just lit up when he could put on car shows, and run the Mid Ohio Ford Club Spring Swap at the Columbus fairgrounds every August and raise so much money for the Earth Angels Foundation, and now he is fearing the knock on the door with someone on the other end telling him that they have to get their belongings out and leave.
I pray for everyone in this same situation, and I hope everyday that the economy will get better soon so that families like my ex-in laws will have a place to lay their heads at night, and be able to afford food and everyday costs of living these days.
Thanks for reading and God Bless.
The cities in Ohio were amongst the first to feel the recession – but now even the heartland is in the grips as this piece from WOSU explains. The piece also addresses a new reality for the youth of the state – no money and now a big question – what future? Will there be jobs and when for the youth?
LONDON, OH (wosu) – Later this week,the Labor Department will give its latest snapshot of the job market. Ohio’s unemployment rate remains in double digits. While Ohio cities have suffered much of the job losses, the slack economy also effects the state’s small towns where young people have begun to take notice.
“The recession has arrived.”
Ohio State University Agricultural Economist Matt Roberts says the economic downturn was a long time coming to rural Ohio and its farm economy. Agriculture is often touted as Ohio’s biggest industry. And it helps fuel the economies of some of the state’s smaller towns. Bucyrus, London, and Greenville come to mind. Roberts says record commodity prices last year boosted farm income. Tim White, editor of Ohio Farmer magazine in Lancaster, likens current conditions to a big squeeze and he cites the state’s dairy industry as especially troubled
“Milk prices are extremely low. Feed prices are extremely high and they’re caught in a big squeeze.”
White and Roberts made their comments at this year’s Farm Science Review. Nearly, 140,000 visited the three-day event, including many high schoolers on field trips. They too, sense an economic squeeze. 14 year old Carolyn Carmean and her friends live in Richwood, a small town northwest of Columbus in Union County.
“We just basically have one store. Its a very small town so there’s not much there so people can have a lot of jobs. ”
Carmean says the recession hit home when one of her parents was twice laid-off this year.
“Well I’m experiencing it right now. I’m going through it. We are unable to pay for our stuff so we have to move.”
Carmean and her friends are just getting started in their working lives. Nathan Bigham, also of Richwood, says he first noticed the sluggish economy while doing work laying pavers and bricks for outdoor landscapes.
“We do really fancy work and like people don’t want so much fancy stuff because they have to pay for it. And they don’t got the money so us masonry workers are out of jobs.”
As a result, Bigham says most days he has little or no spending money.
“Honestly, right now I am pretty much broke. So I don’t go to Mcdonalds much anymore.”
Megan Fogle, also of Richwood, says she’s also noticed a downturn in the local economy.
“I don’t know, it sucks, I guess. q) You really think so? Yeah. q) why do you say that? Because like everybody’s getting laid off and then they don’t have jobs and then they don’t have money and then they can’t buy anything or do anything.”
Interviews with other youngsters show similar concerns. 14 year old Dane Simpson of Marysville says he makes about 35 to 40 dollars a week making pizzas so he can keep some cash in his pocket.
“I have a job now but the economy’s so bad that I ain’t getting much hours and so its getting hard to buy stuff.”
Simpson says he’s been forced to cutback especially on his entertainment purchases.
“Well my X-box 360 broke so I don’t have enough money to buy that. So, I’ve given up alot of my X-box and all my other game systems.”
Simpson says instead of going out and buying games he now spends most of his weekly pay on food. Taylor Renick of Lancaster says his plight is even worse. He wants to go to college in a couple of years but he’s also having trouble finding work.
“I’m already looking. Q) how’s that going? Horrible, Yeah, no one will hire me,at all. Q) In Lancaster, what are your options? There’s like Kroger and Carnival and places at the mall and then there’s like Mcdonalds and Burger King and Wendy’s and all that.”
Renick says he wants to study law after he graduates from high school in two years. Bigham, Fogle and Carmean are undecided about their future plans. Simpson says he hopes the economy improves and creates more jobs for young people.
“I hope they do but I’m planning on going into the military where there’ll always be work.”
Tom Borgerding WOSU News