Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Slightly more Yolo kids living below poverty line

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy
October 17th, 2010
Enterprise staff writer
reprint courtesy of the Davis Enterprise

There's good news and bad news about Yolo County children in the latest U.S. Census Bureau figures on poverty and health care.

The bad news: The percentage of children in Yolo County living below the poverty line increased slightly in 2009, as did the percentage of families living in poverty.

According to recently released figures, the poverty rate for children under age 18 rose from 13.4 percent in 2008 to 14 percent last year, while the percentage of families in poverty increased from 7.8 percent to 8.7 percent.

The poverty rate is defined as an annual income of $18,310 for a family of three, $22,050 for a family of four.

The numbers actually improved for Yolo County's youngest children: The poverty rate for children under age 5 decreased from 19.7 percent to 15.2 percent, though the margin of error also was higher for that age group.

All of the poverty figures remain lower — and in some cases significantly lower — than the period from 2005-07 when the poverty rate for Yolo County children under age 5 was as high as 28.5 percent, according to the census.

Health insurance rates

Yolo County also is doing better than the rest of the state in terms of both child poverty and the percentage of children with health insurance. Statewide last year, 19.9 percent of children under age 18 and 22 percent of children under age 5 were living in poverty and almost 10 percent lacked health insurance.

In Yolo County, that number was only 4.5 percent, or about 2,053 children without health insurance, according to the Census Bureau.

The advocacy group Children Now recently reported that number has dropped further in 2010, putting Yolo in the top third of counties statewide in terms of the number of children with health insurance.

Program serves area kids

It's no surprise to folks from First 5 Yolo and the Yolo County Children's Alliance, partners in the effort to provide health insurance to all low-income Yolo County children through the Children's Health Initiative.

Since the initiative was started in 2006, 2,472 children have been enrolled in one of four health insurance programs for low-income families in Yolo County: Healthy Families, Medi-Cal, Healthy Kids and the Kaiser Child Health Plan. Children whose parents earn 300 percent or less of the federal poverty level are eligible for at least one of the programs.

That success is largely the result of excellent collaboration throughout the county, according to Jackie Hausman, program coordinator for First 5 Yolo, which covers Healthy Kids' premiums for children under age 5 through tobacco tax proceeds.

Funds covering children ages 6 to 18 come from a variety of sources, including the Blue Shield Foundation, Yolo County, local foundations, cities and individual donors. Kaiser Permanente also provides children unlimited access to the Kaiser Child Health Plan.

“We have great partnerships and collaboration with social services and other agencies,” Hausman noted.

In particular, she cited the efforts by Maria Romero of the Children's Alliance to find and enroll children throughout the county without health insurance.

“Maria has done an excellent job with outreach,” Hausman said.

Romero said those efforts are indeed widespread. “Whatever opportunity we get, we take advantage of it,” she explained.

That means being at community events, food assistance distribution centers and community clinics, as well as getting referrals from Head Start programs, schools and other social service agencies.

No wait list for insurance

It's largely a matter of finding the families and helping them with all the necessary paperwork, Romero said, since the insurance itself is readily available through the Children's Health Initiative without any current wait lists.

In fact, both women said, there should not be a single child in Yolo County lacking health insurance.

According to Romero, the bulk of children currently without health insurance live in Woodland and West Sacramento, as well as small rural communities. Actual numbers are very hard to come by, Hausman said, since the Healthy Kids Survey used to determine those figures is largely unreliable in counties as small as Yolo.

She adds, though, that she is certain the number of children who have lost a parent's employer-based insurance is on the rise in this down economy. “I'm 100 percent sure those numbers are going up,” she said.

However those families may be harder to reach, Romero noted, since their parents may be less likely to come forward for assistance. “They're just embarrassed,” she said.

— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at aternus@davisenterprise.net or (530) 747-8051. Comment on this story at www.davisenterprise.com

Thursday, October 7, 2010

So whaddya know about squash?

Squash is low fat and offers an ample doese of dietary fiber, which makes it a heart and diet-friendly food.  in addition to being vibrant and flavorful, squash packs a mean vitamin punch! 

Squash is a wonderful source for vital vitamins and nutrients like potassium (important for bone health) vitamin B6 (essential for the proper functioning of both the nervous and immune systems) and folate (an important nutrient in the prevention of birth defects).

Squash is also a great source of vitamin A, a very good source of vitamin C,  manganese, omega-3 fatty acids, thiamin, copper, vitamin B5 and niacin. 

One of the most abundant nutrients in squash is beta carotene  - an important antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties that has been shown to help prevent the oxidation of cholesterol in the body.

WHEN BUYING SQUASH: Choose squash that are firm and fairly heavy for their size, otherwise they may be dry and cottony inside.  Look for squash that hve bright, glossy exteriors, and avoid buying squash taht have nicks or bruises on their skins, as well as ones that have soft spots.

WHEN STORING SQUASH:  Different kinds of squash store for different lengths of time.  For instance, acorn squash may be stored for 2 weeks in a refrigerator, and up to four days one it has been cut open.  Butternut squash and pumpkins may be sotred for up to 2-3 months.  Also, avoid storing squash near apples, avocados or passionfruit, as they are known ripening agents that release ethylene gas.

For more infomation about the health benefits of squash, please contact our Moveable Market team and be sure to stop by one of their sites.  Take a peek at their October schedule to find out when they'll be in your neck of the woods!   http://www.foodbankyc.org/moveablemarket.htm 

And be sure to check out our Myspace blog every Friday during the month of October for delicious, innovative recipes featuring squash!  http://www.myspace.com/yolofoodbank/blog

Monday, October 4, 2010

FOCUS ON HEALTH: Taking action against hunger

By Tom Richardson

September 26th, 2010
Reprint Courtesy of The Davis Enterprise

September brings about another change in season, the days have begun to shorten, the harvests will begin to slow down, and schools have resumed. September is also Feeding America's “Hunger Action Month,” an effort to mobilize the public to end hunger in the United States.

This is the month where we should be increasing our awareness of those in need, learning about local efforts to fight hunger including the Food Bank of Yolo County, and seeking support from you to take action.

As we are all painfully aware, the economy has suffered immensely over the past couple of years. Locally the unemployment rate exceeds the national average, and where people do have work, hours and or pay have been reduced. We are getting by with less, and in many cases prioritizing our expenditures.

Many people, especially those on fixed incomes, must decide between food, medicine or shelter if they can't afford everything. This is not new, but it is much more prevalent today, with a much larger demographic. In fact, the latest report for households that required food assistance was 12.2 percent.

Imagine that; more than one in 10 households has either gone to a food pantry or eaten a meal at an emergency kitchen. These are not programs set up by the government; they were created because of people's actions rather than talk.

We are very fortunate in this country, as many organizations have been created to meet the needs of those less fortunate with grace and compassion. Many began as dreams of regular everyday people that “saw a need” and filled it. This is the case of the Food Bank of Yolo County, which began as a food pantry in Davis 40 years ago.

The mission of the food bank is “To alleviate hunger and malnutrition in Yolo County.” Over the years, the food bank has expanded its operations as the need of those we support has changed. The Food Bank supports nearly 70 different agencies within the county including food pantries, food closets, and other charitable organizations. The food bank acts as a central clearinghouse for donated food and passes on the savings to others: the Food Bank knows how to stretch a dollar.

In the past few years, the food bank has expanded its operations to include programs on site and across the county. The Movable Market is a way in which fresh produce is delivered to low-income families at specific sites throughout the county. in Rural Food Delivery, 25-pound boxes of food are delivered to low-income people in rural parts of the county.

Friday's Table delivers fresh produce to five sites that distribute it to individuals. There are many other programs, including cooking classes, nutrition education and gardening classes offered at the food bank.

When the economy turns around, and it will, we will continue to see a need to keep people fed. In the meantime, as we grow our awareness of hunger in our midst through Hunger Action Month across the nation, consider what action you can take to make a difference in the lives of those in need.

Visit http://www.foodbankyc.org for more ideas on how you can take action.

— Tom Richardson is the president of the Board of Directors for the Food Bank of Yolo County

Friday, October 1, 2010

Make A Difference Day 2010

Saturday, October 23, 2010 marks the 20th anniversary of Make A Difference Day, the nation's largest day of community service. On that special day, millions of Americans will unite in a common mission to imrprove the lives of others.

Community Harvest Food Drive

According to one survey nearly 30,000 Yolo County residents, including children, low-income families, seniors on fixed incomes, people living with HIV or AIDS, the homeless and people struggling to move from welfare to work, live with the threat of hunger. In celebration of “Make A Difference Day 2010,” Sacramento Logistics LLC (a subsidiary of C & S Wholesale Grocers, Inc.) has joined forces with the Food Bank of Yolo County in a county-wide food drive benefiting hungry families in our community!

WHAT: A day-long food drive. Residents throughout Davis, Woodland and the surrounding areas are encouraged to bring any quantity of non-perishable food items on that day

WHEN: Saturday, October 23, 2010 from 9:00AM – 2:00PM

WHERE: Food Bank of Yolo County, 1244 Fortna Avenue, Woodland, CA 95776

* The items we need donated the most include: Tuna/Canned Meat, Peanut Butter, Pasta, Pasta Sauce, Canned Fruit & Vegetables, Cereal, Fruit Juice, Rice, Canned Soup (no items packaged in glass, please!)

*Volunteers will be needed to help spread the word, as well as work the day of the event to collect donations and to distribute information about the Food Bank.

*This is a great opportunity for groups, families and residents, in general, to come together in support of our neighbors in need. For more information or to volunteer, please contact Sue Raddatz via phone
(916) 373 - 4238, or Teryl Warren at: (530) 668- 0690.