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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

NY2NO's February Brigade in New Orleans!

The New York 2 New Orleans Coalition worked with OSBG on February 13th-21st. We had a trip of fifteen teenagers from New York City all excited about participating in the service-learning brigade. Here are some highlights from our trip:


These pictures give only a small glimpse of our wonderful experience staying and working at OSBG. We sifted a lot of compost, dealt with lots of manure, planted, and various other tasks in preparation for the Spring season as OSBG. We also spent a lot of time with Kirk, one of the students at OSBG. We can safely say that we made a very close friend.

Mardi Gras:

These pictures of some of our participants and a New Orleans resident were taken at the Backstreet Cultural Museum, where we spent our Mardi Gras. We saw residents celebrating the real Mardi Gras, and made sure to stay clear of the tourist-filled streets of the city. Having the opportunity to be apart of the culture is one of the aspects of the experience participants cherish and remember the most.


NY2NO visited Tangipahoa, and had a great experience! At Tangipahoa, we worked on a farm owned by Wayne. The group planted, weeded, and collected wood for wood chips and pine needles for the planting beds. It was a very productive and exciting day!

The Houma Nation:

NY2NO also visited and met with the indigenous people of The Houma Nation, located South of New Orleans. The Houma Nation had numerous overlapping issues with the Lower Ninth Ward. Both areas have a poor education system, many people are illiterate and live below the poverty line, and they face the issue of extreme wetlands degradation. During our visit, we met with a representative from The Houma Nation, Jamie, and discussed different ways we could work together during the summer and future. The Houma Nation was especially interested in shared youth workshops, and the possibility of creating a sustainable garden on the reserve that youth and community members could work on. Above is a picture of the community center where we met.

-Kyra Zimmerman, Candice O'Neal

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Planting in Tangipahoa

On Wednesday, we joined Wayne and Cheri Stevens on their farm in Tangipahoa to plant some beans, potatoes, onions, brussel sprouts, and cabbage.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Our trip to The Houma Nation

Today Our School at Blair Grocery went on a field trip with other GNOF Environmental Fund grantees on a road trip to visit 3 communities in the Houma nation (see more info on the grantees at We met in Raceland with Brenda Dardar Robichaux, Principal Chief of The Houma Nation, for lunch and watched a brief movie presentation on environmental and food justice issues in the greater New Orleans area. From there we loaded onto the bus and went to a community “down the bayou” that has suffered from severe hurricane damage(not only from Katrina and Rita, but from Gustav and Ike too). Brenda explained to us on the ride over that not only had the storms hit these communities badly, but that federal and aid /funding were scarce for the people of The Houma Nation because they are not federally recognized. They have been in the process of applying for federal recognition to become a sovereign body for 31 years. This would allow them to receive federal funding and not have to recover and survive solely off grants.

On the drive over we marveled at how devastated the roads were and at the reluctance on the part of local government to fix them. As we drove through the community, Brenda pointed out to us all the plants and trees that used to be alive, but have all died within the last 15 years due to salt water intrusion. She also pointed to large bodies of water, telling us that it used to be solid land or coastal wetlands, which has all deteriorated within the last two decades. This has led to a decreased buffer zone between the gulf coast and the community, making storm damage considerably more severe.

As we were on our way to the second stop, we decided to stop at an LSU research center, since it was on the way. Alex Kolker, Assistant Professor of Coastal and Wetland Processes at Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, brought us up to the observation deck and talked a bit about wetland destruction and restoration, the ridges of the Mississippi river and a little about the oil companies that have played an important role with regard to Louisiana's wetlands.

We got back onto the big blue bus and continued on our way “across the bayou” to the next community, Dulac. In the community Jamie gave us a tour of the gym, the library, a communal eating space and even met with a town elder, who is “the town treasure” and as a basket weaver.

OSBG is interested in possibly partnering with these communities, send some volunteers there, and help out with whatever projects they need us to. It was overall a very exciting day, in which a lot was seen and a ton of information was learned. Thanks everyone who came along.

From the New York Times last November:

November 17, 2009

Hunger in U.S. at a 14-Year High

WASHINGTON — The number of Americans who lived in households that lacked consistent access to adequate food soared last year, to 49 million, the highest since the government began tracking what it calls “food insecurity” 14 years ago, the Department of Agriculture reported Monday.

The increase, of 13 million Americans, was much larger than even the most pessimistic observers of hunger trends had expected and cast an alarming light on the daily hardships caused by the recession’s punishing effect on jobs and wages.

About a third of these struggling households had what the researchers called “very low food security,” meaning lack of money forced members to skip meals, cut portions or otherwise forgo food at some point in the year.

The other two-thirds typically had enough to eat, but only by eating cheaper or less varied foods, relying on government aid like food stamps, or visiting food pantries and soup kitchens.

“These numbers are a wake-up call for the country,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

One figure that drew officials’ attention was the number of households, 506,000, in which children faced “very low food security”: up from 323,000 the previous year. President Obama, who has pledged to end childhood hunger by 2015, released a statement while traveling in Asia that called the finding “particularly troubling.”

The ungainly phrase “food insecurity” stems from years of political and academic wrangling over how to measure adequate access to food. In the 1980s, when officials of the Reagan administration denied there was hunger in the United States, the Food Research and Action Center, a Washington advocacy group, began a survey that concluded otherwise. Over time, Congress had the Agriculture Department oversee a similar survey, which the Census Bureau administers.

Though researchers at the Agriculture Department do not use the word “hunger,” Mr. Obama did. “Hunger rose significantly last year,” he said.

Analysts said the main reason for the growth was the rise in the unemployment rate, to 7.2 percent at the end of 2008 from 4.9 percent a year earlier. And since it now stands at 10.2 percent, the survey might in fact understate the number of Americans struggling to get adequate food.

Rising food prices, too, might have played a role.

The food stamp rolls have expanded to record levels, with 36 million Americans now collecting aid, an increase of nearly 40 percent from two years ago. And the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, passed last winter, raised the average monthly food stamp benefit per person by about 17 percent, to $133. Many states have made it easier for those eligible to apply, but rising applications and staffing cuts have also brought long delays.

Problems gaining access to food were highest in households with children headed by single mothers. About 37 percent of them reported some form of food insecurity compared with 14 percent of married households with children. About 29 percent of Hispanic households reported food insecurity, compared with 27 percent of black households and 12 percent of white households. Serious problems were most prevalent in the South, followed equally by the West and Midwest.

Some conservatives have attacked the survey’s methodology, saying it is hard to define what it measures. The 18-item questionnaire asks about skipped meals and hunger pangs, but also whether people had worries about getting food. It ranks the severity of their condition by the number of answers that indicate a problem.

“Very few of these people are hungry,” said Robert Rector, an analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “When they lose jobs, they constrain the kind of food they buy. That is regrettable, but it’s a far cry from a hunger crisis.”

The report measures the number of households that experienced problems at any point in the year. Only a “small fraction” were facing the problem at a given moment. Among those with “very low food security,” for instance, most experienced the condition for several days in each of seven or eight months.

James Weill, the director of the food center that pioneered the report, called it a careful look at an underappreciated condition.

“Many people are outright hungry, skipping meals,” he said. “Others say they have enough to eat but only because they’re going to food pantries or using food stamps. We describe it as ‘households struggling with hunger.’ ”