September 26, 2016
The week of September 12th marked the beginning of CCC’s 2016 Community Leadership Course, a ten-week program that teaches participants about the various challenges children and families in New York City face and introduces them to programs around the city that play a pivotal role in solving them. This fall’s 30 participants bring an incredible diversity of background and experience — from an NYU social work graduate student to doctors, retirees, nonprofit professionals and more — looking to deepen their understanding of children’s issues and broaden their impact as advocates.
CLC participants kicked off their first round of experiential learning and site visits last week by diving into the issues of food and income insecurity. Families all across the city struggle with these challenges on a daily basis – CCC’s Keeping Track Online data resource shows that in 2015, more than a quarter (28.6%) of New York City children lived below the federal poverty level. In the same year, nearly one in four New York City children were at risk of hunger.
While these numbers are stark, groups of CLC participants visited several organizations around the city that work diligently every day to change these realities and help families who struggle with food and income insecurity improve their outcomes.
One such organization, The Financial Clinic, builds working individuals’ and families’ financial security by helping them address both immediate financial needs and plan for long-term savings goals. Financial coaches help families set goals and walk them through key processes such as accumulating assets, selecting a bank, developing credit, and taking advantage of available tax refunds. Their work helps individuals and families take control of their economic lives and lay the foundation for a solid financial future for themselves and their kids.
Another site some CLC participants visited, East New York Farms, supports urban gardeners and urban farms in the East New York neighborhood. East New York Farms also runs a Community Supported Agriculture program as well as cooking demonstrations and nutrition and health-related education programs to increase East New York residents’ access to affordable food and resources on healthy decision making. These staples are too often unavailable or difficult to access in high-poverty neighborhoods.
For New Yorkers who don’t always have easy access to healthy affordable food, the West Side Campaign Against Hunger provides emergency food in its pantry open four days a week. New Yorkers can choose three days’ worth of food from the pantry, which is set up like a supermarket, as well as access critical services such as social service counseling and Medicaid and SNAP applications. The WSCAH model is designed to promote self-reliance, empowerment, and the dignity of its customers, so New Yorkers can feed their families and become more food secure.
The last site a group of participants visited, the Center for Family Life Worker Cooperative in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, organizes cooperative businesses where workers are also owners. The businesses partner with community residents who are often mothers or recent immigrants and helps them cultivate a network to foster their professional growth and maintain their economic stability.
As CLC participants learn more about the work sites do to serve food and income insecure New Yorkers, they also hear about some of the policies CCC advocates for to ease the burden on those families, including expanding government programs such as food stamps and child support enforcement, expanding eligibility for and increasing the value of tax credits, and asking the State to allow families to split their tax refund and allocate a portion to long-term savings goals.
CLC participants will continue to explore different issues facing children in New York City and head to more sites throughout our city’s communities over the next eight weeks, and we will continue to blog about their experiences. Stay tuned for next week’s programming on homelessness and housing!
Visit the CLC page of our website to learn more about our 10-week program that takes place each fall.