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Developing New Solutions With Food Recovery Network

by Regina Northouse, Executive Director, Food Recovery Network

File_000 (1)Food Recovery Network (FRN) is the largest student movement against food waste and hunger in America. FRN unites and empowers college students to recover surplus food from their campus dining halls and surrounding food businesses and donate that food to hunger-fighting nonprofits who feed those most in need. With 230 university chapters across the country and growing, FRN’s goal is to support higher education in being the first sector where food recovery is the norm and not the exception. Through the power of highly motivated student leaders, FRN has recovered and donated more than 2.1 million pounds of food since 2011.

FRN positively impacts our communities. Our student leaders support over 350 hunger-fighting partners including homeless shelters, food banks and food pantries, providing them with wholesome, nutritious meals to give to their clients.

The U.S. food system is marked by an alarming paradox: nearly 40% of food produced in the US goes to waste, while 48.1 million Americans experience food insecurity each year, one out of seven of whom are children (NRDC 2016; USDA 2015).

Food Recovery Network was formed in 2011 by college students at the University of Maryland who wanted to address these issues of food waste and food insecurity, and their social and environmental impacts. These impacts include wasting 23% of potable water and 18% of valuable cropland, as well as emitting methane into the atmosphere, contributing to the rise of greenhouse gas emissions and global climate change.

What sets FRN apart, is our innovative model which empowers and educates young leaders and breaks down barriers between college campuses by helping students develop new solutions to problems in their communities, to connect with nonprofits in their area and help and build relationships with their neighbors who also happen to be in need. Through our model, our civic-minded student leaders gain confidence in their own abilities to challenge the status quo and fight for what is right.

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Food Recovery Network is a national nonprofit that applies local solutions to specific communities to ensure surplus food gets to those who need it most. I know I speak for my amazing team at FRN headquarters in College Park, Maryland, when I say we are continually inspired by our hard-working student leaders all over the country.

Many of FRN’s students often do more than volunteer with their FRN chapter. Our students pursue other opportunities in the food recovery movement, such as gleaning from local farms, recovering nonperishable food items during the days when students on their college campus move out for the semester, and participate in summer recoveries. The student leaders also volunteer with the nonprofit where they donate their surplus food by tutoring, preparing and serving meals and helping with cleanup initiatives.

We talk to our leaders all the time and there are so many inspiring stories. Actually, when asked about her relationship with her chapter’s partner nonprofit, one student from Michigan said, “Every time I brought food to our partner agency, I would meet one of the residents and they would be so kind and grateful! I loved being a part of this amazing organization and movement! It has made me realize that I want to incorporate more awareness and advocacy in my future career.”

Recently, we were told by an FRN alum that one of her limiting criteria for searching for which grad schools she wanted to apply to was whether that the school had an FRN chapter so she could remain engaged as a graduate student.

At the heart of what drives FRN to pursue the work we do is two things. First, being able to provide a source of nutritious food to those who would otherwise not have access. We’re here to be part of our communities. Second, we want to change behavior to reduce food waste at the source post production. This is one of the highest instances of food waste (versus food wasting on the vine for example). We don’t want to overproduce food in order to donate it, we want to ensure good food isn’t wasted to begin with, and when there happens to be surplus, which, let’s be honest, much of the time there will be, that food should feed our fellow neighbors in need.

In addition to recovering food from their campuses, students have the opportunity to volunteer their time with the hunger-fighting partners and the individuals they serve, highlighted by Lighthouse Outreach Ministries, “Everyone likes to see the college kids ride up! The homeless have families that they are separated from and it makes everyone smile to know they are not invisible.”

FRN is dedicated to continuing our work in the food recovery space and to expand the movement, as we continue to provide support and resources for driven, civic-minded students seeking opportunities to engage with their communities and build their leadership skills. I look forward to collaborating and partnering with individuals and other organizations to move the needle on the issue of food waste and food loss. I hope those reading this post know they can be part of the conversation with us!

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FRN hopes to see our network expand to 350 chapters across the country, and our ability to recover 1 million pounds of perfectly good food year-over-year. We’re working to expand our Food Recovery Verified (FRV) program that recognizes and rewards food businesses of any type that are working to fight waste and feed people through food recovery. FRV serves as a third party that verifies that food businesses are donating surplus food to hunger fighting non-profits. We list those businesses on our website, we have a communications strategy to give voice to those businesses, and each business receives a window sticker to display on their doors or on marketing materials to tell patrons their business does the right thing with their surplus food. To date, FRN has over 90 food businesses that have been verified including Adidas, Zulily, and Twitter Inc.

Success is when each point within our food system has decreased food waste by implementing better practices to avoid overproduction of food–meaning at the farm level, the producer and purchasing level, at the retail level and individual consumer level. I know that as this conversation takes hold in the consciousness of more people, FRN is part of that behavior change.

Success is having the proper logistics in place for when there is surplus food to properly and effectively distribute that food to those who need it most across the country. We also want our student leaders to be part of the full process. Our students are the future entering into literally every sector in our country as business owners, chefs, teachers, engineers, technicians and farmers who all share the FRN experience. That experience has shaped their thinking about their ability to positively impact the lives of their community members, as well as how to reduce food waste. That’s the FRN lens. We want that FRN voice to continue to speak even once our students have graduated from college.

A great day at FRN features our small but mighty team at the national office working to support and expand the national network. That includes connecting with existing chapters on the phone, social media, emails and getting them what they need to go out and recover, or move closer to achieving their newest goals for the semester.

FRN works closely with our hunger-fighting partners collecting vital information, analyzing it, and then passing along new resources to our chapter leaders. At FRN, we’re constantly refining our work–what can we do better, what have we learned from our previous projects, what didn’t we do well, and where did we knock it out of the park?

As we grow, how we scale has to change, and how are we addressing those needs? Hearing the hum of our feedback loop in the office–during our project planning meetings is important, too. Additionally, our staff works with non-university food businesses that recover food to recognize them for their efforts and inspire other businesses to begin recovering through our Food Recovery Verified program.

All of these variations operations take place in our national office, made possible by our dedicated, passionate, and collaborative staff!

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There are plenty of ways to be involved, and we need you to be involved with us!

  • FRN welcomes all interested volunteers, including non-students, to help out with their local chapters!
  • Non-student volunteers are encouraged to reach out to their local chapter leaders, as many chapters seek the help of additional volunteers as drivers or mentors, if not during the actual recoveries as well. A list of chapters by state and their respective chapter leaders, contact information can be accessed here.
  • The national office is always here to make connections, too. FRN national is setting up gleaning dates throughout the fall in and around the Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia area. We would love for you to help us recover perfectly good food right at the farm!Contact our national office now to put your name on the list for more information.
  • Help us expand! If you’re alma mater isn’t on the FRN map and you know students who attend and would make a great leader, put them in touch with us! Students can start by filling out our very short application.
  • Support our second annual National Food Recovery Dialogue. This is our annual conference that brings together our student leaders, industry experts, and community members to put into context the bigger picture of our work, and is a space to roll up our sleeves to problem solve on-the-ground problems, share resources, and break bread with one another.
  • Have some fun and start a “Zero Waste Challenge” for FRN. That can mean reducing your waste by eliminating plastic straws from your daily use, or paper napkins like our national board member Jessica did, or it could mean trying to go completely zero waste like our other national board member, Claire did. Anyone can do it, and it’s quite the amazing experience!
  • If you have an expertise that you think can help FRN, please reach out to us. We’re growing and need dedicated support in several areas. Please contact FRN headquarters by emailing info@foodrecoverynetwork.org or phone +1 (240) 615-8813 with any questions, or to be involved.

Skills for the Future with Washington Youth Garden

by Crystal Williams, Communications and Events Manager, Washington Youth Garden
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Washington Youth Garden (WYG) is a program of Friends of the National Arboretum (FONA) on the grounds of the US National Arboretum and uses the garden cycle to enrich science learning, inspire environmental stewardship and cultivate healthy food choices in youth and families. WYG has three subprograms within the organization; SPROUT (Science Program Reaching Out) – field trip program, Green Ambassador Program- high school internship program, and Garden Science – school garden development program.

In 2016, 3,140 students visited the garden on nearly 100 SPROUT trips while 90% of SPROUT participants tasted something new from the garden.

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This year from April through June, we’ve already served 2,500 students through our SPROUT program and 15 new high school Green Ambassadors joined us for the busy summer ahead!

Gardening and carpentry skills are not the only thing our students gain in the garden, as illustrated by the following quote:

“The Green Ambassador Program] gave me a lot of skills for future jobs and helped me grow as a person as well. A lot of my peers come from very different backgrounds, so it gave me a lot of new perspectives.”
-DeWayne Walker, Green Ambassador Program 2016

This year we celebrate our new education pavilion. The new pavilion at Washington Youth Garden’s demonstration garden is the result of a partnership between the Weissberg Foundation, local businesses, and nonprofit organizations working together to benefit school groups and families from underserved D.C. neighborhoods and other communities in the region. The pavilion is dedicated to the late Judith Morris, who was passionate about sharing nature and the Arboretum with surrounding communities and underserved youth. The pavilion provides a much-needed outdoor classroom space for young people coming to our demonstration plot to learn about environmental science and nutrition.
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We encourage the community to be a part of Washington Youth Garden by either attending an event such as Family Garden Day on August 12th or volunteering with us. Volunteer as an individual or bring a group. Individuals should sign-up for an orientation here. Volunteering as a group with Washington Youth Garden is a fun and active outdoor experience that is sure to build staff cohesion outside the office. For more information visit our website at www.washingtonyouthgarden.org

Compassionate Care with Culmore Clinic

by Allison Colby,Interim Executive Director, Culmore Clinic
7881CF48-A700-4DA5-AEAF-A5262C8DF3AEAccess to healthcare continues to be a crisis. An estimated 50,000 people are still uninsured in Fairfax County, Virginia, alone. Barriers to accessing medical care are legion. Affordability, language, and documentation are just a few examples. Dedicated individuals and congregations thought something should be done. In 2007, they opened Culmore Clinic.

Culmore Clinic is a 501c-3, non-profit healthcare clinic serving low-income adults in the Bailey’s Crossroads community at little to no cost. Supported by a diverse group of interfaith volunteers, healthcare providers, and donors, Culmore Clinic offers compassionate medical care, counseling services as well as specialty referrals. Their commitment to care for all is displayed with their top-notch medical interpretation services to ensure effective treatment to the culturally diverse community in which they work. Volunteers founded The Clinic in 2007 and to this day it is still significantly volunteer run, allowing more resources to go toward patient care.

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I was drawn to The Clinic because of its unique and meaningful mission and am impressed by the way it is lived out in daily practice. Culmore Clinic is, at it’s core, an interfaith compassionate health care center. By naming and claiming these words in our mission it ensures that all will be treated with respect, diversity will be celebrated, and care will be patient centered and culturally competent. Personally, I come from a family rooted in faith and have been drawn to serving those who may have been overlooked. I value not only tolerance but true collaboration between faith groups and cultures to enrich the lives of the entire community. The Clinic does not just provide healthcare, it is a neighborhood beacon. A safe haven for all. A forum for dialogue and catalyst for change. This is why I serve here.

Success for us is when the care and resources we have worked hard to establish, meet the needs of the community we serve. We are far from “doing it all” but when we are able to connect patients with the services they need, in an otherwise expensive and confusing system, we are successfully serving our community. This matching of need with relief can take many forms at The Clinic.

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Some days it means we are able to send a female patient for a free mammogram and prevent breast cancer. Some days it means we are able to help a patient navigate the pharmacy system and teach him how to use insulin for the first time. Success at The Clinic can take the form of countless volunteer hours spent making sure that a necessary surgery will be possible and affordable. It can mean connecting a patient with established programs in the county for much needed case management and housing support. Impacts, both large and small are the success stories that keep us pushing forward.

We are in the “business” of providing accessible, quality healthcare to all, but we certainly cannot do it alone. Our best days happen when we partner with neighboring organizations to provide an even more comprehensive network of support. For example, the generous Food Pantry volunteers, on site from Columbia Baptist Church @ Crossroads, have taken to providing our patients with seasonal fresh produce, in addition to assisting with nutrition bags at our Diabetes Group Visits. We have “great days” that involve visits from members of a local retirement community who set up our exam rooms and deliver dental care packages. Our partners in diagnostic and lab testing continue to provide us with free and reduced services to meet our busiest of great days! Culmore Clinic is committed to using resources wisely and putting all we can back into improving delivery of care. With partnerships like these, we are able to provide even more great days for our patients to come.

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I invite you to check out our website at www.culmoreclinic.org where you can find more about our volunteer opportunities. We’re always looking for RNs, healthcare providers, and those with administrative, data collection and interpreter knowledge. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter too where we send out updates on Open House events where you can take a tour of The Clinic. Also, we encourage you to spread the word about Culmore Clinic to your doctors and healthcare professionals as we are always looking to expand our specialty referral network.

Bringing Summer’s Bounty to Our Older Neighbors with We Are Family

By Tulin Ozdeger, Co-Executive Director, We Are Family
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Summer is one of my favorite times of year. I love the warmer weather, the longer days, and the chance just to spend more time outside. As an avid gardener and cook, I also love the bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables that arrive in my garden and at the farmers market this time of year.

My background is Turkish and I grew up tagging along with my parents at the amazing farmers markets in Turkey, marveling at all of the delicious foods we would soon bring home to cook and eat. I know that good ingredients make really good food.

I am Co-Executive Director of We Are Family, an outreach and advocacy organization that serves low-income older residents of the North Capital, Shaw, Columbia Heights, Petworth, and Adams Morgan neighborhoods of DC. When I got a call from Dalila Boclin at Community Foodworks two years ago to discuss collaborating with their Columbia Heights Farmers Market, I jumped at the chance.

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We Are Family serves over 700 seniors each month, with year-round monthly non-perishable grocery deliveries, visits, transportation, Thanksgiving and holiday gift deliveries, and a whole lot more. Most of our seniors are living at or below the poverty line and many are isolated, lacking any nearby family. So, We Are Family walks beside them to help them age in place with a good quality of life.

IMG_4489I know how popular our monthly grocery deliveries are with our seniors, as each month the list grows and grows right now we deliver to over 725 seniors each month. Given our seniors’ meager incomes and the fact that DC recently ranked as the 4th worst place in the nation for older adult food insecurity, the great need for free food deliveries is hardly surprising.

I had long dreamed of bringing free, high quality farmers market produce to our seniors, as I know that many simply do not have the money or the mobility to get the fresh produce they desperately want and need. I also loved the idea of supporting local farmers and the Columbia Heights Farmers Market, given how important they are to our local food systems and to the health of our community and environment.

IMG_3436The response from our seniors to the produce deliveries has been tremendous. They love getting such delicious, healthy food each week! After our very first delivery, I got several calls from seniors raving about the produce and telling me how excited they were to cook with it. One of them said she eagerly got up extra early the next day to start cooking the greens she had gotten in her bag.

In 2015, we started out serving 35 seniors each week with our produce deliveries and, as of this week, we are now delivering bags of fresh produce to just over 160 seniors. Through our partnership with Community Foodworks, We Are Family is able to purchase the produce for our seniors from the Market at a wholesale price.

Community Foodworks orders the food and makes the bags for us each week. With help from our volunteers, We Are Family picks up the bags from the farmers market and delivers them to our seniors in three nearby buildings we serve in Columbia Heights.

One bit of feedback we got from some seniors last year was that they were not always sure what the vegetables were in their bags or how to prepare them. So, this year, I decided to include a flier from We Are Family listing the bag’s items with pictures, along with some simple recipe ideas each week. Like many of us, sometimes our seniors aren’t quite sure what to do with the produce when they get it. Coming up with recipes has even helped me get a little more creative in my kitchen. (My 7-year-old son was surprised when he actually liked the swiss chard omelet recipe I put on one flier!)

Given our lean paid staff of only 2, We Are Family relies tremendously on the help of volunteers. There is no way we could deliver food to over 700 seniors each month without them! We will be delivering produce each Wednesday afternoon from 3:30 to 5:30 through October 11th and welcome you to join us.

We also have regular Saturday morning volunteer events all throughout the year, including grocery deliveries, visits, and grocery bag assemblies. (A calendar and sign up for our events can be found here: www.wearefamilydc.org/events.)Ms Glover produce pic

The volunteer experience can be a powerful, even transformative one. My life is a testament to that truth. I came to DC for law school a little over 20 years ago and started volunteering with older DC residents several years later. The seniors I have met have had such a profound impact on my life. When I first moved here, I didn’t think I would stay, much less find myself co-directing a group like We Are Family – but here I am! We know how much your volunteer time will mean to our seniors, but you might well be surprised how much it will mean in your life too.
We hope you can join us in spreading good food and caring community!

Motherhood is a Sisterhood with DC Diaper Bank

By Corinne Cannon, Founder and Executive Director, DC Diaper Bank
33593131875_ca921b159b_oNext month, DC Diaper Bank will distribute our 5 millionth diaper to a little one in the metro area. If you had told us that we would reach this milestone in six years we would have laughed! But we’ve gotten there because so may people have come together to make supporting vulnerable families a priority.

DC Diaper Bank was founded to ensure that all moms — all families — have what they need to thrive. Through our network of 40+ partnerships in Maryland, DC and Virginia, we distribute diapers (150,000+ each month!) and other necessary essentials, like formula, period products, adult diapers, and breastfeeding supplies, to families with young children experiencing poverty.

Diaper need is an issue for 1 in 3 families in poverty in this area and nationally. Government support like WIC or SNAP does not cover diapers, and as any parent will tell you — they are expensive, especially when you aren’t buying them in bulk. Diapers at a corner store can cost up to $.50/diaper, when a child goes through 10 diapers a day, that expense adds up quickly! Lack of diapers can lead to a host of problems, from diaper rash for babies to employment issues for grown-ups, since a supply of clean diapers is required by most child care providers.

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The moms out there doing their best in tough circumstances inspire us! At DCDB, we’ve come to realize that motherhood is a sisterhood — we help a mother out when we can, we are helped by other moms when we need it, and that’s how we raise healthy, strong, thoughtful members of the next generation.

We’re also inspired by our partner organizations, who every day find new and creative ways to engage families in their programs and support them through challenges. Finally, we’re inspired by the families that volunteer with us (1,500 each year!)– folks that are demonstrating to their children that it’s never too soon to help someone out, and that your time, and dollars, can have a real impact on someone in need.

We are excited to be broadening our definition of essentials right now — in addition to diapers, we are able to offer our partner agencies formula, wipes, period products, hygiene items and feeding supplies, and the list grows! Success for us is every child having everything they need in those critical first years of development, and every family having the support they need.

Learn more about volunteer opportunities and other was to get involved at dcdiaperbank.org

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A Local Recipe for Healthy Kids

by Emma Boel, City Blossoms
IMG_6151 City Blossoms is a nonprofit dedicated to fostering healthy, diverse communities by developing creative, kid-driven green spaces and innovative resources.

Working out of Washington DC as its home base, City Blossoms innovates new resources and techniques in urban, educational gardening and youth empowerment. City Blossoms facilitates local empowerment within predominantly black and Latino populations by partnering with schools and organizations, maintaining Community Green Spaces, and offering tools and trainings to educators and community leaders. Their holistic approach incorporates art, gardens, science, cooking, healthy living, and community building into one joyful and educational experience for people of all ages.
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The nonprofit reached a total of 3,500 students at its gardens in 2016, and boasted 300 hours of free programming at its two community green spaces in the same year. Washingtonians rave about the results. One garden parent, a city native, insists, “Programs like City Blossoms are absolutely vital to the youth of DC.”

This impactful work has recently resulted in an exciting new outcome: City Blossoms just printed a cookbook.
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Garden Gastronomy, Gastronomia del Jardin is a vibrant collection of bilingual recipes designed to help children become enthusiastic and healthy chefs. Perfect for the educator, parent, or veggie enthusiast interested in sharing the joy of cooking with kids, this artfully constructed book is full of colorful photographer and cheerful illustration to make it an appealing treat for readers of all ages. The book includes 32 bilingual garden recipes, guidance on cooking seasonally with local produce, and tips for preparing food with kids.

The recipes include snacks and dishes like Sunflower Seed Pesto, Strawberry Mint Salad, and Garden Ramen. It’s a valuable product in-and-of-itself, however, the book’s most important feature may be its local roots.

Every recipe has been made time and time again by thousands of little hands. Every dish comes with the approval of young DC gardeners, who have built this book in the same way they have built their gardens: themselves. City Blossoms wrote and published the book after testing and tasting each recipe in the gardens with young chefs. They hope it will reach educators, gardeners, parents, and food justice activists. They hope it will find readership around the country. However, they know that these dishes have already made their way into the homes of the children who provided the energy for its creation, and that feels like a great start.
FullSizeRender 8The best days at City Blossoms are those full of community. We love to have volunteers at our garden work days, participants in our Open Time programming, and visitors at our public Community Green Spaces. To buy a copy of the cookbook, to connect with us, or to become a member of our essential team of donors and partners, visit our website at cityblossoms.org.

Sustainability is Front and Center at Iona Senior Services

by Rosie Aquila, Iona Senior Services

Iona’s Farm-to-Table program has been “greening” the community for more than three years. Now, we’re turning our attention to our backyard.

Wellness-Garden (1)Last year, Iona’s Food Access Coordinator Ashlea Steiner had an idea: what if we could encourage sustainable and green food practices right here at Iona?

Ashlea was inspired by her experience running our Farm-to-Table program, which gleans fresh and local produce from DC farmer’s markets that would otherwise be discarded, and distributes it to older adults for free.

Ashlea’s vision was to restore the raised beds outside Iona’s Wellness & Arts Center in Tenleytown. She wanted to engage the participants in the adult day health program in creating the garden and in harvesting and eating the produce. “When I saw that we had garden beds at Iona that weren’t being used, I thought, ‘This is a great thing I can take on,’” says Ashlea.

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For the first year, participants helped plant seedlings that grew in our sunny windowsills throughout Iona’s office space. Ashlea then transferred the baby plants to the raised beds (dubbed Iona’s Wellness Gardens). Throughout the summer and early fall, participants enjoyed a bountiful harvest of cucumbers, beans, pumpkins, tomatoes, basil, carrots, chives, eggplant, bell peppers, lettuce, broccolini, kohlrabi, parsley, mint, and beets.

Ashlea also distributed produce at Iona’s Farmer’s Markets, which are held at Iona’s Active Wellness Program at St. Alban’s and Regency House, the only public housing for older adults in Ward 3. Our programming also expanded to include food demonstrations and nutrition education with the homegrown vegetables and herbs.

After last year’s success, Ashlea was determined to further Iona’s greening efforts. So, she turned to the land itself. “Last year, we needed to add nutrients to the raised beds because they had been dormant for a while,” explains Ashlea. “So, I bought a whole bunch of compost. But, it’s expensive! I thought, ‘We could be making our own.’”

With help from some friends of Iona, who compost at their home, we built compost bins at Iona and began collecting food waste and paper trimmings from our office. Today, we have 50 gallons of dark, moist, and nutritious compost for the Wellness Gardens. “I will not have to buy any compost this year,” says Ashlea. “We’ve saved money, and, best of all, it’s Iona’s own waste.”

Also new to this year is our foray into aquaponics. In this system, waste produced by fish supplies nutrients for plants grown on top of the water (without soil). In turn, the plants purify the water. Many larger aquaponics systems harvest both the produce and the fish. However, at Iona, we’ll have a goldfish tank for participants to enjoy. “We’ve wanted a fish tank for a while,” says Ashlea. “Because it’s aquaponics, the tank will be easier to clean. And, we’ll be getting the added bonus of fresh herbs growing on top.”

While these changes at Iona might seem like small efforts, Ashlea believes they can have lasting effects.

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Over the last year, for instance, she’s noticed more and more people at Iona asking her questions about growing plants or starting their own composts at home. “They’re able to see an example of it at Iona, and then apply it to their own lives,” says Ashlea. “We’re really spreading this idea of food sustainability. How many senior centers can say that?”

To learn more about food sustainability and volunteer with Iona’s team, contact our Volunteer Coordinator at volunteer@iona.org.

DC SCORES is Team!

Spring, it seems, is here to stay in Washington, DC, and for one nonprofit after-school program, that means service.

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At DC SCORES, elementary and middle school students across the District — 2,200 of them — create change in their communities during the 12-week season through service-learning projects.

Writing coaches hired by DC SCORES80% of whom work at the schools — lead students through the program’s thick service-learning curriculum, taking them on a journey that goes like this:

Stage 1: Examine your community. Kids walk around their school building and into the surrounding neighborhood, equipped with clipboards and a pencil. They jot down what rubs them the wrong way. Is there a lot of trash? Homeless people suffering? A lack of gardens? Stray animals?

Stage 2: Research. After a collaborative decision on which issue to focus on, the kids educate themselves. They look up statistics online. They talk to people who are relevant to the issue locally. They become informed.

Stage 3: Implementation. It’s time to go to work! During the two service-learning sessions after school each week, the kids — feeling empowered like never before — take the steps as a team to create change. Some projects culminate in a big day (examples: a car wash to raise money to feed the homeless; a fun race to fundraise for the local animal shelter; a fitness festival to bring awareness about healthy living to their school community) while others are multi-week processes such as the creation of a school garden.

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Stage 4: Reflection. The last week of the spring DC SCORES service-learning season is spent reflecting on the project. What were the biggest challenges? What felt most rewarding? How did the kids feel when it we completed? Many lessons come out of these projects, and the elementary and middle school poet-athletes in DC SCORES learn just how powerful they are to make a difference in their communities, especially when working together.

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DC SCORES was born in 1994 by a Teach for America teacher, Julie Kennedy, who noticed that girls she taught at Marie Reed Learning Center (now Marie Reed Elementary School) had nothing to do after school. Julie rolled out a soccer ball one day, and the girls embraced the game. On a rainy afternoon, with everyone stuck inside, Julie placed a notebook in front of each girl and and encouraged them to freely write down their thoughts about anything. The poetry aspect, which takes place during the fall season and culminates in the annual Poetry Slam!, came about. Service-learning was added as the third prong of the innovate model shortly thereafter.

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DC SCORES goes where kids in need are — they operate in all eight wards, with 55 sites at DC public and public charter schools and rec centers; the program’s waiting list is 20 schools deep — and gives them the skills and confidence to be successful on the playing field, in the classroom, and in life.

Every aspect of DC SCORES, from the weekly game days to the Slam! to service-learning, is based around team and led by supported, trusted coaches who are considered leaders in their school communities. If you are in Columbia Heights or Deanwood or many other DC neighborhoods, you will see kids and adults walking around in DC SCORES school-customized T-shirts. They wear them proudly.

DC SCORES is team. And the bonds created within DC SCORES lead to stronger, healthier, happier communities throughout the District regardless of resources available. Just consider Imagine Hope Community Charter School – Tolson Campus, which last year created a school garden on its blacktop out of recycled soda bottles.

Give kids an outlet, the confidence, and the tools to make their world a better place, and the result will be beautiful.

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GET INVOLVED
So how can you get involved with DC SCORES this spring?

Volunteer: DC SCORES especially needs volunteers for its season-culminating Jamboree! on Saturday, June 3 for all 2,200 kids and their families. Many roles are available. Additionally, referees are needed for Thursday game days (no experience necessary). Check out all volunteer opportunities HERE.

Website: Learn more about DC SCORES at www.DCSCORES.org or by connecting with the program on any social media platform (just search DC SCORES).

Breast Care for Women Provides Peace of Mind

By Beth L. Beck, President and CEO

Dr. Regina Hampton and Beth Beck co-founded Breast Care for Washington to ensure that all women have access to lifesaving breast cancer screening, diagnostics and treatment, regardless of their ability to pay.

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Three years ago, outraged over the breast cancer mortality rates found in the Washington DC area, they felt it was important to bring a state-of-the-art breast care facility to the area where the need was great and resources limited. Since opening doors in May 2014, over 2,700 women have received care at our facility in Ward 8 and 25 cases of cancer have been diagnosed.

Every day we are motivated by the women who walk through our door, looking for help with a health issue. They come to us after searching the internet, by word of mouth, or from a referral from another health facility that refuses to see them because of their insurance status. When we connect to a woman with a lump in her breast, who has nowhere to turn, and we are able to provide her with immediate care, information and peace of mind – we know we are definitely in the right business!

As a relative young nonprofit, Breast Care for Washington continues to grow and we have not reached our patient capacity yet. Through the development of our robust community outreach program we are now able to reach more women with critical information about the importance of screening and early detection. We work hard to break down barriers to care including adding non-traditional screening times (weekends and evenings) to make our services as accessible as possible to busy women with competing priorities in their lives. Our vision includes a mobile mammography component in the next few years so that we are able to take care directly to our patients where they live and work.

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Breast Cancer is 95% curable if caught early and treated. Women hesitate to get mammograms because of fear, fear of the pain of the procedure as well as fear of something being found. Every day we work to overcome women’s fears by taking the time to explain how mammography works, by creating a warm and friendly environment for medical care, by getting to know our patients and remaining their supporters and advocates over time.

Whether we are working with a woman scared to get her mammogram for the first time or welcoming back a patient for her third annual mammogram with us, seeing the smiles on our patient’s faces makes our day. And we know that the more we encourage women to get their mammograms and make their health a priority, the more lives we will save.

Breast Care for Washington is located in the Conway Health and Resource Center. 4 Atlantic Street, SW Washington, DC 20032. For appointments and information please call 202-465-7164 We do not require referrals for screening mammograms.

Living Life to Your Fullest Potential

Deborah.Drawing about NVTRP

As nine-year-old Deborah Busch – with her twinkling eyes and sweet, shy smile – sits at her kitchen table and chats about why she loves all things horse-related, you would never imagine the challenges she has overcome.

Her mom, Jessica, adopted her out of foster care three years ago. “Deborah suffered from extreme abuse and neglect,” she explained. “When I got her, she was six but she could barely talk and she had no core strength. It was hard just to lift her into the car. She was that floppy.”

On her way to work each day, Jessica would drive past the Northern Virginia Therapeutic Riding Program (NVTRP), located in Clifton, VA. Having ridden horses as a child, Jessica knew a connection with animals would play an important role in helping Deborah heal.

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For over thirty-five years NVTRP has helped riders to recognize the unexpected potential in their lives by providing equine-assisted activities to children and adults with disabilities, youth-at-risk, military service personnel and their families.

Students improve fitness level and mobility through horseback riding by gaining core strength, muscle control and balance. Working closely with horses and volunteers inspires them to build self-esteem and further socialization, and also helps to provide a sense of community and belonging.

“Deborah has so many diagnoses: fetal alcohol syndrome, ADHD, significant learning disabilities, it was really hard for her to connect emotionally to anything when she came to me,” said Jessica. A connection with animals is a great way for people to develop empathy. That’s absolutely been the case for Deborah.

Learning to ride and care for a horse not only improves the physical health of a rider, but also generates a critically important sense of achievement.

“Riding helps me do my work a lot. Some things are hard for me, like math and reading, and when I get frustrated, I think about the horses. That makes me feel better.” added Deborah.

Lessons at NVTRP are diverse and include instruction in riding skills, exercises, and games, while also focusing on grooming and horse care. Under the guidance of certified riding instructors, each year over 250 volunteers come together to help more than 350 students achieve an enriched quality of life while overcoming physical, mental, and emotional obstacles.

Deborah began riding at NVTRP in the Spring of 2014 and her mom delights in the success she has found.

“I can’t tell you how great it is to see Deborah do something independently,” Jessica said. “She needs so much support in everything else she does, but it’s like she’s a different kid on the horse. Listening and paying attention are so hard for her every place else. Riding just flows out of her. Riding is what’s fun for Deborah, and it’s so important that she has something fun in her life.”

NVTRP is accredited and nationally recognized by the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Int’l). Lessons are taught by PATH Intl. Certified Riding Instructors who are assisted by up to three volunteers per rider. This type of structure and supervision enables riders to participate in a challenging, physically active sport that gives them confidence and a sense of accomplishment.
To learn how you can help riders like Deborah live life to their fullest potential, please visit www.nvtrp.org or call (703) 764-0269.