Local non-profit seeks to increase accessibility for area residents.

SPRINGFIELD – The “Mason Square” neighborhood is a “food desert”.

A “food desert,” as defined by the United States Department of Agriculture, is an “urban neighborhood or rural town without steady access to fresh, healthy and affordable food.

With the absence of supermarkets and grocery stores, many residents turn to these fast food restaurants and convenience stores, to feed their families.

“If you have a dollar menu at McDonalds and I have $5, I know I can feed my family, compared to $5  at a grocery store,”

said Talib Toussaint Paskins, program coordinator at Gardening the Community, a local non-profit based in Springfield.

Gardening the Community was created in 2002, to help the community by providing it with fresh produce while teaching and encouraging youth to learn about agriculture and sustainability.

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Vertical Gardens and Affordable Housing

In major cities across the world everything goes up. Building after building helps to create a skyline of skyscrapers, glass windows and concrete.

However, many counties in New York City like Brooklyn, Harlem and the Bronx are recognizing that it’s not all about the concrete in the concrete jungle, but about the green. Green gardens, vegetables, plants and rooftops.

To learn more about how these New York counties are changing the landscape and alleviating issues of accessibility click here to read the full story on Storify.

The Face of Hunger

Google image search the word “hunger” and you’ll be presented with the faces of black and brown children, from Africa and the Middle East . These children, with their pot bellies, exposed ribcages and doe-eyed expressions of sorrow out stretch their hands asking for a donation of food or money.

These images are strewn  across American media outlets as the only faces of hunger, which is quite damaging for those suffering in the United States.  In the U.S. there is no distinct face of hunger – the retired army veteran, the single parent working a low-wage job, the recently laid-off middle aged neighbor and more.

According to a recent survey published by Feeding America, 1 in 6 Americans  struggles with hunger.

In a recent trip to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, I had the opportunity to learn about hunger in America and the methods in which organizations (CNS, Big-Y, and Stop&Shop) and government agencies (United States Department of Agriculture, Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)are trying to combat the issue of hunger.

Heather Clark, the Development and Marketing Manager at the Food Bank spoke to us about the partnerships between the food bank and local organizations and government agencies. She described the break down of food income – explaining that about 50-percent of all food received comes from the USDA, while the other half is comprised from local grocers, farmers and food drives.

Clark went on to explain that the food bank assists more than 200,000 people suffering from hunger, a number that is quite large, but not an accurate portrayal of the millions of others who do not qualify for assistance because they do not meet the requirements that classify them as impoverished.

Fortunately for the millions of families and individuals that do not qualify for supplemental programs like SNAP or WIC, they will never be turned down or away from local food pantries like the Stone Soup Cafe in Greenfield,  or non-profits with community gardens like Nuestras Raices in Holyoke or Gardening the Community in Springfield.

Both of which are programs that are designed to combat hunger in inner city food deserts.

For more information about community gardens and the ground work that these two  non-profits are doing, please check out the full length article about Urban Agriculture and Sustainability.

Studying Abroad

Studying Abroad: A students’ investment in their career

AMHERST, Mass – This past spring Daniel Rodriguez, a senior journalism student at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst embarked on the experience of a lifetime, interning abroad in London, England with Capa International Education. Rodriguez is one of only 10 percent of U.S. College student who study abroad.

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Daniel Rodriguez standing in front of the London Bridge, in London, England.

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What I learned about the covering the economy.

Over the course of the past several weeks, I have spent many nights staying up late, researching the economy. While this sounds intense, it’s what is required in order to have an understanding of economic terms, how to use them in a story and simplify them for your audience.

Covering the economy has been more than a juggling of numbers and terms, it has given me insight into the ways in which communities operate, benefit and lose out. For instance, I did not know that in Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System played a very important role in the funding and success of one’s school.  The correlation, poor results = less funding +less access to resources= poor results, I realized that this cyclical system ineffectively measures a students’ performance. For many affluent communities is a positive thing, and for those unfortunate enough to be from less affluent communities, its quite the opposite.

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