March 5, 2018

Monday, March 5, 2018

USDA Wants to Hear from You About SNAP

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is currently seeking public feedback for ideas that “promote work and self-sufficiency” for able-bodied adults without dependents who receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The USDA says public input on this topic will help inform potential policy and program changes that will align with the recommendations from President Donald Trump’s proposed federal budget.

As CMF reported, under the budget proposal the program would be reformatted to add employment requirements for able-bodied adults. Recipients would also receive half their benefits in a USDA food package named “America’s Harvest Box” containing nonperishables such as canned vegetables, and funding for SNAP would be reduced by more than 30 percent over a decade.

In Michigan, 14.7 percent of residents receive SNAP assistance, which is about one in every seven Michigan residents. According to the latest data shared by MLive, nearly 75 percent of Michigan SNAP households are working and earning income. The breakdown shows 49 percent of Michigan SNAP households had one worker in the home and 26 percent had two or more workers in the household.

As for reformatting the current system, there are already limitations on the amount of time those who are considered “able-bodied” adults and don’t have children, can receive SNAP benefits. According to the USDA, they can only receive SNAP benefits for three months in a 36-month period unless they’re working, participating in a work program, physically unable to work or have a dependent child, then the limitations don’t apply.

The USDA states that there’s also flexibility for state agencies to request a waiver if unemployment rates are high or if the area can’t provide a sufficient number of jobs for employment.

The proposed changes under the federal budget proposal would limit those waivers to counties with an unemployment rate of 10 percent or more during a one-year period.

“The implication being that a lot of SNAP recipients don’t work,” Peter Ruark, senior policy analyst, Michigan League for Public Policy told WCMU Public Radio. “In fact, most SNAP recipients do work. What would be the motivation not to work? You can’t pay the rent with food assistance.”

The Food Research Action Center (FRAC), a national nonprofit organization, is calling on the Senate and House Agriculture Committees to defend and strengthen SNAP in the upcoming Farm Bill, which is up for reauthorization before it expires at the end of September.

What FRAC wants lawmakers to know about SNAP nationally:

  • Every federally funded SNAP dollar generates $1.79 in economic activity

  • Receiving SNAP in early childhood improves graduation rates, adult earnings and health

  • SNAP lifted 3.6 million Americans out of poverty in 2016 and is nearly as effective as the Earned Income Tax Credit in moving families above the poverty line

  • SNAP relieves pressure on food banks, pantries and other emergency food providers

  • 75 percent of SNAP households have a child, a senior citizen or a person who has a disability, in the home

  • 55 percent of SNAP households with children work and have earnings

Several CMF members support programs that enhance access to fresh, healthy food, especially for SNAP recipients.

Through the efforts of the Fair Food Network’s Double Up Food Bucks Program, supported by 25 CMF members, the program provides $1 to $1 matches on SNAP dollars to give recipients better access to healthy, fresh produce at farmers markets and grocery stores in Michigan and around the U.S.

MLive reported last week that the new Flint food hub will open this fall, providing a permanent space for the Flint Fresh Food Market and Veggie Box program, supported in part by CMF members that include the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, the Michigan Health Endowment Fund and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation. The market offers the Double Up Food Bucks program as well.

Since the Double Up Food Bucks program started, there’s been more than $4.4 million in SNAP and Double Up sales across the nation. As CMF has reported, in Michigan, produce sales increased 34 percent at 12 grocery stores participating in Double Up Food Bucks.

Share your feedback with the USDA on the SNAP program online; the deadline for public comment is April 9.

Want more?

Connect with resources from FRAC.

Learn more about Double Up Food Bucks.







Engaging in Community Dialogue: Our Shared Democracy

Amidst divisive political conversations, differing ideologies and a need for greater community engagement, how can we bridge the divide to have inclusive and civil community conversations?

CMF, in partnership with Independent Sector and The Fetzer Institute, a CMF member, coordinated with local partners in five Michigan communities in 2017 to pilot a dinner circle model to explore the possibilities for increased community dialogue.

The Fetzer Institute shared in a blog, “We know that foundations, nonprofits, and social enterprises play a key role in cultivating a healthy civic life. What we wanted to learn more about is how our community leaders draw on their inner strength to catalyze their work, make connections across divides and model a shared vision for our communities and our country.”

Our Shared Democracy Dinner Circles focused on providing a respectful and constructive space to explore inner values that shape community work and reflect on how these connections contribute to a thriving democracy.

Through the findings from the dinner circles provided in the final report, we’re sharing what emerged from the dinners as well as learning opportunities for other communities.

Five dinner events were held in Ellsworth, Marquette, Traverse City, Otsego County and Kalamazoo, inviting a mix of community leaders, teachers, religious leaders, public officials, business owners, nonprofit service providers and community volunteers to discuss their values and what drives their community engagement. A final dinner circle was held in Detroit in October at Our Common Future conference.

At each dinner, participants were seated in small groups and asked to use a conversation guide, which you can view here.

While these discussions took place in different communities around the state, there were several similar themes that emerged from these conversations.

Key takeaways from the dinners:

  • A Common Ground: Starting with the personal, shared values is important before issues are discussed. Participants shared common concerns such as poverty, homelessness and a desire to lead change and shape democracy. Finding common ground on topics can lead to bridging differences.

  • Civility: Sharing ground rules for civil discourse leads to high-quality, honest conversations without taking sides. Participants shared that the discussion framework allowed for learning opportunities.

  • Love of Community and Validation in Community Work: These conversations reaffirmed the participants’ community work. They found the conversations inspiring and they reinforced community identity.

  • Need for More Divergent Voices: Participants expressed the need for increased representation in community dialogue settings, with more diverse opinions and a wide range of lived experiences.  

One dinner circle participant shared, “What struck me tonight was the quality of conversation around my table – people sticking to the ground rules that were given and sticking to the questions asked, discussing significant topics with great passion.”

The dinner circle conversations also led to some key takeaways about barriers communities are facing when it comes to having a healthy democracy.

What the participants shared:

  • Social media: This platform of engagement can lift negative voices and lead to transactional conversations and cynicism instead of more in-depth and civil discourse.

  • Lack of time and space: There’s a feeling of loss in the “public square” pointing to a lack of public expression beyond the media and social media.

  • Political infrastructure: Participants shared concerns about gerrymandering and low participation in local politics.

  • Divisions in views: Intense partisanship on issues and zero-sum perspectives are barriers.

There’s ongoing work planned for further conversations in some of the communities who participated in the dinner circles.

Community dialogues and civil discourse are essential for shared prosperity and affecting change, as philanthropy and community leaders look to empower voices in the communities we serve.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation recently announced another two years of funding to continue its support of a similar model through the On the Table initiative which has brought together 40,000 residents in 10 cities, including Detroit, to discuss community issues.

Want more?

We’re sharing a conversation guide if you’d like to explore the dinner circle model in your community. 







Creative Placemaking Strategies

Michigan philanthropy is leveraging placemaking in urban, suburban and rural areas to attract and retain talent, fuel economic development and create vibrant and equitable communities.

This week, we’re getting a look at placemaking strategies around arts and culture that have emerged from the work of The Kresge Foundation, as it’s releasing a series of white papers throughout 2018 to highlight lessons and opportunities for funders to integrate arts and culture placemaking into communities.

The first white paper, Kresge Arts & Culture Program: The First Decade walks us through the evolution of the work at the foundation and key takeaways for the field.

The white paper describes the foundation’s transition from awarding capital challenge grants to arts organizations to grant support focused on community development framework.

The paper states that in 2010, the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) worked in partnership with foundation leaders including Rip Rapson, president and CEO, The Kresge Foundation to establish the concept of creative placemaking.

“At the federal level, the NEA implemented this concept by breaking through governmental silos to engage with and embed arts and culture in other departments such as Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Transportation.”

This concept of creative placemaking put arts and culture “inside the community revitalization frame” intersecting with issues such as housing, transportation, environment, health and more to create opportunities for low-income individuals and communities.

Highlights from the white paper include:

  • Kresge’s Arts and Culture program now “focuses exclusively on partnerships with low-income and vulnerable communities,” utilizing community engagement and design to create equitable change.

  • The foundation’s grantees shared three elements that are essential to long-term change in low-income communities: increased social cohesion among residents, change in narrative and a positive physical transformation.

  • The foundation is seeing progress from this work within organizations, from adding staff to support creative placemaking efforts to creating resources to inform the work.

  • Challenges facing the foundation’s grantees in this work include:

    • Quantitative tracking of outcomes, as they may lack capacity to do evaluation themselves.

    • A lack of peer-to-peer or on-site learning experiences about creative placemaking work to exchange insights.

An example of a recent grant by Kresge’s Arts and Culture program demonstrates what this work can look like in communities. In 2017, the foundation awarded a two-year grant to Focus: HOPE in Detroit to “accelerate neighborhood projects that use food as an anchor for health, economic development and creative placemaking in low-income communities.”

On April 16, CMF’s Arts and Culture Affinity Group is hosting a convening in Flint that will highlight on-the-ground, place-based examples of cross-sector approaches to economic development, education and community engagement. If you’re interested in hearing from CMF members working in this area, be sure to register. 

Next month, we’ll share examples of placemaking from the Thumb region supported by three CMF member community foundations in the next video in our rural philanthropy video series.

Want more?

Check out Kresge Arts & Culture Program: The First Decade.

Join Creative Many for Michigan Arts Advocacy Day on April 18 in Lansing.







Pennies from Heaven Foundation supports workforce development through innovative collaboration

This month we’re sharing the newest video from our rural philanthropy video series featuring Pennies from Heaven Foundation.

Pennies from Heaven Foundation of the Community Foundation for Muskegon County is taking an innovative and collaborative approach to enhancing workforce development.

“We found our greatest need in economic development was workforce development,” Monica Schuyler, executive director, Pennies from Heaven Foundation said.

That’s why Pennies from Heaven Foundation and United Way of Mason County, along with 13 local employers entered into a partnership to support the Lakeshore Employer Resource Network of Mason County, which is aimed at breaking down barriers for employees to be successful in the work place.

“It’s a group of companies coming together to solve their employees’ non-HR type problems, housing, transportation, health care, child care; the kind of things that you wouldn’t take to your HR department but that are impactful in your life and help you stay employed and make you successful in the workplace,” John Wilson, founder and president, Pennies from Heaven Foundation said. 

The network serves 20 percent of their working population.

Check out their story.

This video is the latest in our rural philanthropy video series featuring innovative work underway by members serving rural communities.

The CMF Rural Philanthropy Affinity Group led the development of this series, so members can learn from their peers about the creative and innovative solutions happening in Michigan’s rural places to improve the lives of its residents.

Each month CMF will share a new story from a foundation working in a range of areas. Stay tuned next month as we share a story from the Thumb region featuring the Community Foundation of St. Clair County, Huron County Community Foundation and Sanilac County Community Foundation.

Want more?

Check out the rural philanthropy video series to-date: 

Sturgis Area Community Foundation: Impact Investing for Economic Development

Rotary Charities of Traverse City: Providing Equitable Access to the Waterfront

Pennies from Heaven Foundation: Workforce Development

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