Salvation Army Is Measuring Poverty In Real Time

Here is an example of an innovative community-level data project that will lead to better policy decisions and increased support for the many services that SA offers. I can easily relate this to farmers markets data collection and found particular interest in the key indicators chosen and in this line: “a result due in part to the lack of information in the public domain, but also, the lack of uniform reporting that exists on both a national and local scale”, which also remains a problem for grassroots markets and other food initiatives.

This story also illustrates what could very well be the next step to Farmers Market Metrics: collected indexes that show a larger system inequity or effect,  possible once we establish which metrics are best compiled for different system measures. Those system measures can come from the work done by Center for Whole Communities and their Whole Measures, which were part of the initial research done for FMM.

 

The Salvation Army has rolled out a new tool for measuring poverty across time and geographic regions.

Out of the 600-plus services that the Salvation Army tracks — everything from the number of toys given out at centers across the country — the team of 30 researchers selected seven indicators of poverty for the index: meals, groceries, assistance for medical needs, utility payments, furniture, clothing and housing…

The index enlists Salvation Army data collected from the roughly 30 million Americans who receive assistance with the organization each year. Out of the 600-plus services that the Salvation Army tracks — everything from the number of toys given out at centers across the country — the team of 30 researchers selected seven indicators of poverty for the index: meals, groceries, assistance for medical needs, utility payments, furniture, clothing and housing. Together, these data points form a score within the index that’s been plotted to show month-to-month changes both nationwide and within each state, between 2004 and 2015. The result is a highly interactive graphic that shows a number of interesting trends, including which states haven’t returned to pre-recession levels of need: Pennsylvania, Indiana, Nevada, Michigan Kansas and Minnesota…

A decade’s worth of data in the index revealed a number of curious trends, including a consistent uptick in demand for assistance on utility bills in springtime. “You’d think it’d be the opposite, because it’s warmer weather,” says Osili. The data analysts at Indiana University went to their colleagues at the Salvation Army, who soon enough arrived at an explanation. “In many communities, particularly in the Northern part of the United States, it’s against the law to turn off somebody’s utilities during cold weather,” says Lt. Colonel Ron Busroe of the Salvation Army. “So in April, when it is springtime, people are coming to us to get their utilities paid.”

Another observation illuminated by the index: a September back-to-school bump in service needs at Salvation Army centers everywhere. Those are just a couple of the discoveries that have Dr. Osili excited about what could blossom from this collaboration between university researchers and a sprawling service provider. “It was a revelation and showed the need for these kinds of partnerships, because on our own we would not have immediately or intuitively thought of that.”

Source: Salvation Army Is Measuring Poverty In Real Time – Next City

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Protestors rally in support of Golden Gate farmers market

FYI- this is Florida and not northern California..

A few issues that I would like more information about from this story: one, if the market and the county had communicated in the past and two, how many local people think that flea market goods have too much room at this market and if they agree that a farmers market should not contain those goods. I’m not advocating for flea market goods at markets (my own markets were very strict about any non-food goods) but whether it is true that flea market goods are taking up most of the space in this market and whether those flea market goods have a place in farmers markets should be up to the local community, which certainly includes the municipality in question, but doesn’t mean the commissioners should decide these issues alone. It is important to note that in many cases across the Americas, staple markets have a place in many communities and can be a very useful type of market for small rural communities or for immigrant communities.

Lastly, the rule to only allow open-air markets to operate only 28 days per year seems awfully restrictive. I wonder when that was passed in Florida and how many counties have that rule? And is it to restrict flea markets but ends up restricting farmers markets too? I do know from my pals in farmers markets in Florida that the use of the term farmers market is all over the place across the state; resellers use the term in normal practice and of course, in a state like Florida that has massive agricultural exports, small farms and direct marketing are not likely to be valued as highly as in other states. Of course, California does have a thriving farmers market system, but also has a very different political climate and history.

For all of these issues, this is why I advocate for formal rules that allow for constant transparency and clarity in market governance. Rules that explain why, when, how and for whom a market operates can help reduce these issues before they get to crisis stage. In addition, this is also why I hope Farmers Market Coalition and their partners are successful in building a simple and usable data collection system; If all markets could gather a few comparable metrics each year, these issues might be more easily diverted or at least, add facts to lessen a charged situation.

The controversy started when Collier County commissioner Tom Henning used the word “gypsy” to describe vendors at the Golden Gate Community Center market. Commissioner Henning wanted to protect a business that complained the farmers market shoppers were taking up his parking spots….
While county commission retracted their initial vote to shut the market down, their problems aren’t over.

County laws say open-air markets can only operate 28 days a year. But vendors at the farmers market want to stay open all year. A petition with 1,300 signatures will be presented at a county commission meeting on Tuesday.
this from another
Taylor said the county’s issue is that it’s not a farmer’s market, but more of a flea market and it appears to be disrupting local businesses.

Protestors rally in support of Golden Gate farmers market – NBC-2.com WBBH News for Fort Myers, Cape Coral & Naples, Florida.

Turkey Creek

In case some of us forget from time to time that what we are fighting for is local sovereignty in order to save, rebuild or create our own healthy systems, and that environmental justice MUST be included into our scope of work, this may help:

COME HELL OR HIGH WATER: The Battle for Turkey Creek – TRAILER (1 MIN.) from Leah on Vimeo.

Derrick often recites a warning that his mother gave him when he began fighting to protect his community of Turkey Creek: “There might not be any bottom to this.” A dozen years later, her words hold special meaning for both of us. My film documents what seems like an unrelenting assault on this historic African American community on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, and it continues to this day. When I began filming, the precious place of Derrick’s childhood memories and family oral history was being overrun by urban sprawl, and then came Hurricane Katrina, and then the BP oil disaster.

SIGN UP to host a screening on April 29th or within 30 days following the premiere broadcast.
ACCESS THE FILM by finding your broadcast on a local station, or watch when it streams for free online through American ReFramed. If you are streaming it online, be sure to test your connection.

2014 resolution: Let’s work seriously on erasing the divide

As we move into another year of organizing around regional food and public health in the US, we are facing opposition that has become stronger and more agile at pointing out our weaknesses and adding barriers to those that we already have to erase. That opposition can be found in our towns, at the state legislature, in Congress and even among our fellow citizens who haven’t seen the benefits of healthy local food for themselves yet.

That opposition uses arguments of affordability without measuring that fairly against seasonality or production costs, adds up the energy to get food to local markets while ignoring the huge benefits of farming small plots sustainably, shrugs its shoulders at stories of small victories, pointing past them to large stores taking up space next to off ramps and asks isn’t bigger better for everyone?
Why the opposition to local producers offering their goods to their neighbors, their schools and stores? What would happen to the society as a whole if our projects were allowed to exist and to flourish alongside of the larger industrial system?
I would suggest that very little would change, at least at first. Later on-if we continue to grow our work-it may be another matter and this fear of later is at the core of the opposition. That fear has to do with the day that democratic systems become the norm and necessary information is in the hands of eaters, farmers and organizers. And so we need to address and keep on addressing the divide that keeps that from happening.

The truth that we all know is that there is already two systems-one for the top percent and another for the rest. Writer George Packer gave his framework for this very argument in an eloquent essay written in 2011 called “The Broken Contract.” Packer argues that the divide in America began to take hold in 1978 with the passage of new laws that allowed organized money to influence elected officials in ways not seen before.
Packer points out that the access to Congress meant that labor and owners were not sitting down and working together any longer. That large corporations stopped caring about being good citizens and of supporting the social institutions and turned their entire attention to buying access in Congress and growing their profits and systems beyond any normal levels.

“The surface of life has greatly improved, at least for educated, reasonably comfortable people—say, the top 20 percent, socioeconomically. Yet the deeper structures, the institutions that underpin a healthy democratic society, have fallen into a state of decadence. We have all the information in the universe at our fingertips, while our most basic problems go unsolved year after year: climate change, income inequality, wage stagnation, national debt, immigration, falling educational achievement, deteriorating infrastructure, declining news standards. All around, we see dazzling technological change, but no progress…
…We can upgrade our iPhones, but we can’t fix our roads and bridges. We invented broadband, but we can’t extend it to 35 percent of the public. We can get 300 television channels on the iPad, but in the past decade 20 newspapers closed down all their foreign bureaus. We have touch-screen voting machines, but last year just 40 percent of registered voters turned out, and our political system is more polarized, more choked with its own bile, than at any time since the Civil War.
…when did this start to happen? Any time frame has an element of arbitrariness, and also contains the beginning of a theory. Mine goes back to that shabby, forgettable year of 1978. It is surprising to say that in or around 1978, American life changed—and changed dramatically. It was, like this moment, a time of widespread pessimism—high inflation, high unemployment, high gas prices. And the country reacted to its sense of decline by moving away from the social arrangement that had been in place since the 1930s and 1940s.
What was that arrangement? It is sometimes called “the mixed economy”; the term I prefer is “middle-class democracy.” It was an unwritten social contract among labor, business, and government— between the elites and the masses. It guaranteed that the benefits of the economic growth following World War II were distributed more widely, and with more shared prosperity, than at any time in human history…

…The persistence of this trend toward greater inequality over the past 30 years suggests a kind of feedback loop that cannot be broken by the usual political means. The more wealth accumulates in a few hands at the top, the more influence and favor the well-connected rich acquire, which makes it easier for them and their political allies to cast off restraint without paying a social price. That, in turn, frees them up to amass more money, until cause and effect become impossible to distinguish. Nothing seems to slow this process down—not wars, not technology, not a recession, not a historic election.

The economic divide and the lack of information about it hurts our movement since many still see us as either too small or too elitist and so delays our work getting to more people that need it. I urge everyone to find a copy of this entire essay and share it and discuss it widely.

Economic Opportunity Is Lowest In the Republican Bible Belt, Major Study Finds | Alternet

I suspected as much, based on the struggle that our community food systems here still have in front of them to reach any decent economic plateau. And, of course, this is another easy way to track where large swaths of institutional racism are still at work.

Economic Opportunity Is Lowest In the Republican Bible Belt, Major Study Finds | Alternet.