Rice County Public Health will hold Face-to-Face hours at the LINK Center every Tuesday from 2:30-5:30pm, beginning next Tuesday, December 13th. Call the LINK Center to make an appointment (507) 664-3500.
-By Sara Doyle, Carleton College (’11)
The video clip included in this month’s newsletter is a clip of Jamie Oliver, a British chef who has made it his mission to spread the word about food and its effect on our health. Oliver’s primary focus is the epidemic of obesity and obesity-related diseases in the United States. He asserts that changing our food habits, which have undergone a drastic change in the last century thanks to the unprecedented growth of the fast food industry and food technology, will change our health. Eating whole foods and reclaiming the home kitchen for whole food preparation is Oliver’s prescription for halting the obesity epidemic. Diet is indeed an “upstream” determinant of health; however, even further upstream is our crippled food system. Food and nutrition security are crucial co-requisites to improving our health status.
Implicit in the idea of sustainable food and nutrition security are also economic and environmental security. A summarizing framework of these interacting facets of our food system that I particularly like is ‘community food security.’ Mike Hamm and Anne Bellows define the tenets and goals community food security (CFS): community food security is a condition in which all community residents obtain a safe, culturally acceptable, nutritionally adequate diet through a sustainable food system that maximizes community self-reliance and social justice. Initiatives based on achieving CFS focus on:
- Meeting the nutritional needs and improving the health of low-income communities.
- Building up a community’s food and food access resources, like community gardens, transportation, and federal aid benefits, so that the community can meet its own nutritional needs.
- Fostering self-reliance and empowering individuals to provide for their own and their family’s nutritional needs.
- Honoring and embracing the variety of cultures and traditions within a community.
Northfield has the resources and motivation to improve the health and well being of all of its residents by supporting and expanding initiatives that work towards community food security. CFS initiatives already in place include the numerous CSA farms in Rice County, the Rural Enterprise Center community gardens, the recent introduction of EBT card readers at the Northfield and Faribault farmers’ markets, Multicultural Cooking Club with Growing Up Healthy, and increased access to fresh produce at the CAC Food Shelf. There is still quite a bit to do to work towards creating food security for and consequently improving the health of the entire community. We have the luxury, though, in Rice County of living proximal to very fertile and abundant land. Becoming an advocate for a more responsible food system is in all of our best interest.
What are other ways that Rice County follows CFS principles? How can you advocate more for CFS principles in your own life and county-wide?
Welcome To USA.gov is a site created by US Citizenship and Immigration services and USA.gov. This website provides a myriad of links to important information and resources from the U.S. government that someone just entering the United States might need: finding English classes in your area, finding work, dealing with healthcare and education issues, getting a social security number, ideas of how to manage money. On the home page, beneath the motto “E Pluribus Unum—Out of Many, One” and the tagline of the website, “Celebrate Citizenship, Learn About America,” a greeting on behalf of the President of the United States appears, stating:
“…We welcome you to this great nation. The United States has benefited from the contributions of immigrants since its founding more than 200 years ago, and we are certain that our newest immigrants will continue this storied legacy.”
All in all, this website seems the picture of “welcoming.” Immigrants are presented as positively fundamental to the United States of America, particularly since the country itself was founded by the descendants of those who had emigrated from across the Atlantic. But does this sense of “welcoming” on paper (or in this case, online) translate into reality at the national level? At the local level?
It is difficult to know exactly what is needed for a community to be considered “welcoming.” When the City Counsel of Astoria, Oregon, officially declared its community to be “welcoming,” it suggested that a welcoming community must be one in which “‘everyone feels valued, accepted, respected, and safe,’” and in which the city “accepts its responsibility to ‘encourage a strong, diverse community connected by its shared commitment to mutual respect, understanding, and dignity for all.’”
Historically, though, the United States has found it difficult to manifest these values as a nation, as President Obama commented during his July 1st, 2010 immigration reform speech:
“…the ink on our Constitution was barely dry when, amidst conflict, Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Acts, which placed harsh restrictions of those suspected of having foreign allegiances. A century ago, immigrants from Ireland, Italy, Poland, other European countries were routinely subjected to rank discrimination and ugly stereotypes. Chinese immigrants were held in detention and deported from Angel Island in the San Francisco Bay.”
Though we are a country created by newcomers, our uncertainty as to how to approach and incorporate immigration and immigrants clearly continues today. It is difficult to balance the fear that a stranger may cause harm if he or she enters our lives with the reality that we are all people and must reach out to each other in order to survive. Yet the commitment to making a community inclusive and “welcoming” is important for ensuring a safe, healthy, and thriving society.
What to you defines a welcoming community? What is being done here in Rice County to make a welcoming community? What more can be done? How can one turn that sense of welcome into a sense of inclusion and integration? What do you think?
The summertime achievements we are highlighting in the July 2010 GUH Newsletter offer fun, engaging ways for kids to stay active during the otherwise lazy summer months. These programs are a reaction to the unfortunate reality of the U.S. “achievement gap.”
The National Center for Education Statistics defines the educational achievement gap as a statistically significant difference in scores between any two groups of students. Andy Porter, Dean of the Penn Graduate School of Education, emphasizes the reality that disparities in children’s “opportunit[ies] to learn” before and during schooling are a primary contributing factor to the achievement gap. Exciting research from Johns Hopkins University highlights the idea that “achievement gaps by family SES (socioeconomic status) and race/ethnicity widen more during the summer months than during the school year.” That’s where enrichment-focused, affordable summer programs, like those Rice County programs presented in this GUH video, programs from other parts of the country, and national efforts, can make a difference!
While it is wonderful that there are a variety of programs available for youth this summer, closing the achievement gap (and keeping it closed) will not happen overnight. Programs that have existed need to continue, and new programs may need to be created to keep providing sufficient innovative programming for all of the communities of Rice County.
How can we sustain the good work that is being done and still needs to be done? With whom does the responsibility lie to keep these programs going and breathe life into new efforts? What other programs are doing exciting work in the summer? What sorts of programs should exist that don’t to address the summer achievement gap issue, and who needs to take the lead on maintaining them?
Brainstorm your ideas and contribute to the dialogue below!
This spring a Carleton College student produced a short video about the efforts of the neighborhood leaders in Cannon River Mobile Home Park. It is a great depiction of their dedication and work. Thank you to Libbie Weimer for all of her hard work!! Check it out below…
Last night we had another successful “Monday in the Park” in Faribault. Despite the cool, somewhat rainy weather, over 50 people gathered to socialize, play games with kids, share some food, and just enjoy time together. We are continuing to meet every Monday evening in June and July from 6:30 to 7:30 pm in the park behind the Faribault Middle School. While the focus is on socializing and English practice for women and children, all are welcome to come meet some new friends. Join us if you can!
On Saturday, May 23 – in the rain – we broke ground for the community garden in the Cannon River Mobile Home Park. Nine families will have small plots this year (10′ x 10′) right in their own neighborhood. The tenth plot will be tended by the children who participate in the summer programming in the neighborhood.
If you have any gardening supplies that you would like to donate, please contact Growing Up Healthy. We are specifically looking for: a large (1000 gallons or more) water tank; a small shed for storing tools; various garden tools; and fencing to surround the garden.
The Rice County Growing Up Healthy Planning Project has resulted in many outcomes: a strong collaboration between and among agencies and organizations serving families with young children; a cadre of community members serving as facilitators and leaders; a shared community vision; a community plan to achieve the shared vision; and a greater awareness of the needs of families with young children. But the greatest outcome from this project is, without question, the body of knowledge gained through the community dialog process. Not only did we receive feedback on partner agencies, but we also heard stories from people about how “the system” is not meeting their needs. We learned what families worry about, what keeps them from accessing existing services, and what changes they would like to see made. We were given the opportunity to hear from community members who are often marginalized and overlooked to the point of being unwilling to share information and opinions. And we were also able to gain the trust of many community members who were not necessarily trusting at the beginning of the planning process. It is our greatest hope that we are able to address their concerns and needs in a way that is deserving of their continued trust. The following Shared Community Vision – developed during the planning project – is what continues to guide the Growing Up Healthy project:
Through agency and community collaboration, Growing Up Healthy will collapse barriers, enhance access, and nurture relationships and educational opportunities resulting in a sense of true community spirit that supports an environment where children grow up healthy and thrive.