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1 week ago · by · Comments Off on Chef David Hertz Is Using Food to Inspire Social Change

Chef David Hertz Is Using Food to Inspire Social Change

Chef David Hertz is a world leader in turning food into social change. For David Hertz, food is more than sustenance, it’s a social-bonding tool. Through his non-profit, Gastromotiva, he’s found a way to empower the world’s poorest citizens. Gastromotiva provides free courses in restaurant cooking, kitchen-assistant training and food entrepreneurship, all with a focus on nutrition. Students apply online, and after they finish the program, they not only find jobs, but often start their own restaurants and soup kitchens.

Hertz was 18 when he started his journey, travelling to the Hatzerim kibbutz to live among native Israelis and Jews from all over the world. “I discovered myself and then I hit the world. Israel was my freedom,” he said. “I had the first vision that there was a bigger world and that I could search for my story, whatever it was. What was supposed to be a one-year trip abroad turned into seven.”

Between the ages of 18 and 25, he visited Thailand, China, Vietnam, India, England and Canada. He took his first cooking lesson in Thailand and discovered the ritual side of cooking in India. When he hit Toronto and started to work in the food delivery industry, he became inspired to become a chef, so he moved back to Brazil to attend a college of gastronomy in Sao Paulo.

In 2004, he was invited to design a kitchen project inside the Jaguare favela — one of Brazil’s many low-income shantytowns plagued with urban violence and drug trafficking, and historically neglected by the government. “When I stepped into that kitchen, I saw a new world,” Hertz said. “I was inspired to do something to contribute to the reduction of violence and to share my knowledge with the young people there, who at many times felt lost, with no relation of belonging to the space. It became my life project, my mission.”

The next year, he decided to create a school focused on training upcoming chefs from low-income areas, which are often plagued by malnutrition and food shortages. His organization, called Gastromotiva, runs a network of what they call Solidarity Kitchens, of which there are now 55 across Brazil and three in Mexico. He won the 2019 Charles Bronfman Prize, which honors innovative work grounded in Jewish values. He’s also worked closely with the United Nations’ World Food Program, which won last year’s Nobel Peace Prize. They have been partners in many efforts to combat global hunger, with the latest focused on alleviating the hunger crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many of the Solidarity Kitchens are based out of the homes of alumni, as well as partnerships with local homeless charities and food banks. Together, they have distributed almost 80,000 free meals to hungry families. By the end of 2021, the number of Solidarity Kitchens will nearly double to 108, including some in other countries in Latin America. “Combating hunger and food waste are global challenges that require joint action. Collaborating with each other, we multiply our impact on the world. I wonder how to feed humanity with humanity,” he said

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2 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Veterans United Gives Homes To Veterans

Veterans United Gives Homes To Veterans

The nation’s top Veterans Administration-affiliated home lender launched a national campaign to highlight vets and their service. With the help of actor, comedian and retired U.S. Marine Rob Riggle, Veterans United Home Loans has been giving thanks to veterans across the country by surprising them with new houses—completely paid off.

As the initiative’s first expression of gratitude, the Missouri-based lending company and its charitable foundation surprised 10 deserving Veterans with a new house each. Veterans United teamed up with Marine veteran and comedian Rob Riggle to select 10 veterans making a difference in their communities for 10 home giveaways and is donating one more to any veteran who enters for a chance to win at ThanksToVeterans.com.

Pam Swan, vice president of military relations for Veterans United Home Loans and a military spouse, got involved in efforts to support service members after getting married in 1987 and becoming aware of what “military families are lacking” and joined Veterans United in 2011. “We as a company work on improving the lives of service members, their families and their communities, and that is the core of every decision we make,” Swan said. “…Last year, we made a big statement in trying to say thank you on Veterans Day in a more spectacular way.”

The donations were a complete surprise to those selected, who were all in the process of applying for home loans and were just recently approved. Winning recipients were Army Veteran Jonathon Brown, eight-year U.S. Navy veteran and single dad Andre H. from North Carolina; Vietnam Army vet Jim L. from New Mexico, who needed a wheelchair-accessible home; U.S. Army veteran and father of three Daniel G. from New York; U.S. Navy veteran, widow and mother of three Regina L. from Georgia; and Marine Corps veteran Iraq vet Samuel T. from California, who teaches local self-defense classes.

“Our #ThanksToVeterans campaign underscores the daily commitment of veterans as local leaders, dedicated volunteers, and exemplary neighbors. And what better way to thank these deserving individuals than by giving them houses of their very own in the communities they call home?” said Swan

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2 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on NYC 11 Year Old Is Helping Shelter Dogs Get Adopted

NYC 11 Year Old Is Helping Shelter Dogs Get Adopted

An 11-year-old boy in Bronx, NY, is this year’s ASPCA Kid of the Year because of his efforts to help socialize shelter dogs at Animal Care Centers of NYC (ACC). Evan Bisnauth leads a busy life in the Bronx, but he doesn’t let his many interests — or even a pandemic — deter him from his primary passion: helping socialize adoptable dogs by reading to them regularly.

In the summer of 2019 Evan’s mom, Amanda Persaud, heard about Books With Boroughbreds, an Animal Care Center program that encourages children to enhance their reading skills by reading to abandoned dogs. She took the bus with her son the following weekend from their home in the Bronx to the shelter in Manhattan. “I spent five hours reading to every dog on the first day,” said Evan, who is now in sixth grade. “After that, I wanted to go every weekend.”

He also creates amusing animations of ACC’s adoptable animals to help them get attention and ultimately be placed in safe and loving homes. When the coronavirus pandemic put his Saturday visits on hold last year, Evan decided to start a Facebook page, EB and the Pets, where he could post short videos he’d made of dogs that needed homes. The shelter supplied Evan with photos of dogs that were most in need of adoption and he got to work making videos with help from an app.

Evan also came up with the idea of interviewing shelter dogs to show their personality to potential adopters. “During COVID, I was not able to go in person and I needed to find a fun way to showcase the dogs and put them in a positive light. It’s like a little show. I’d ask them questions about themselves so people could see how they behave, what they like…information about them,” he said. “So I couldn’t be there, but I could get them the exposure they need.”

The ASPCA announced the recipients of the 2021 Humane Awards, an event to honor people and pets from across the nation who have made outstanding contributions to animal welfare. Evan was named Kid of the Year and was among other ASPCA award winners at a virtual luncheon to celebrate their commitment to animal welfare. “It makes me feel really good … but it also makes me want to do so much more,” he said. He said he hopes the award might inspire other people his age to help shelter animals in their own communities. “Helping dogs has brought me a lot of happiness. If everybody would read to dogs and try to get them adopted, think how much difference that would make in the world.”

Adoptions of shelter animals increased during the pandemic as more people stayed home, and in some cities, there was actually a shortage of adoptable dogs for a time. Some 90 percent of dogs adopted during the pandemic have remained in their adoptive homes. Evan’s crusade to help dogs in New York City has helped raise awareness and make older or unsociable dogs more adoptable, said Risa Weinstock, president and CEO of Animal Care Center.

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3 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Steelers Rookie Najee Harris Helps Renovate Homeless Shelter

Steelers Rookie Najee Harris Helps Renovate Homeless Shelter

Pittsburgh Steelers rookie Najee Harris returned to the California homeless shelter where he stayed at times when he was a child to help renovate the building and the grounds. Harris partnered with the Lowe’s Home Team and Hands On Bay Area group to bring new life to the Greater Richmond Interfaith Program in Richmond – located about 12 miles north of Oakland. The shelter serves 15,000 homeless, hungry, and low-income individuals annually.

On Oct 5th, Harris, his family and more than 100 volunteers removed the floors, walls, fences, gardens, play areas and veterans’ housing. When Harris was 12 years old, his mother and four siblings were homeless and moved from shelter to shelter around the Bay Area at one point even living in a car. Harris spent a lot of time in homeless shelters but he especially remembers the Greater Richmond Interfaith Program so every time he’s in the area, he makes sure to pay his respects.

The Martinez, California, native would eventually attend Alabama where he would star as running back, helping the Crimson Tide to a national championship and then get drafted 24th overall by the Steelers. “In Alabama, I didn’t really go there because I didn’t really have time to do that. Ever since I’ve been out of college … I’m not going to say all the time but a good amount. I planned my draft there, I came back again after the draft to see some of the stuff they need done. I came back again to take some of the kids to a Giants game. “It was good to go back. Obviously, some of the people there are still working. I went back with my mom too and my family. It was good to renovate some of the things that needed updating,” he said.

Harris remembers his time at the shelter and continues to pay his success forward whenever he can. While visiting the shelter, Harris says he just tries to keep the kids’ minds off their struggles. “I tell them the basic stuff, it’s not like I give some grand speech or something but you know. I just tell them you can always change around the situation and sometimes I’m not even speaking to them about the situations they’re in because they all know where they’re at. I just try to take their minds off other things.”

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3 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Anti Food Waste App Too Good To Go Now Serves Los Angeles

Anti Food Waste App Too Good To Go Now Serves Los Angeles

Too Good To Go, the company behind its namesake app for reducing food waste added Los Angeles to its list of cities in the US over the summer. Founded in 2016 in Copenhagen, and now in 15 countries, Too Good To Go saves more than 200,000 meals every day. Since the US launch 10 months ago, the app has amassed more than one million users and over 6,000 partners in cities across the US, including, New York City, Boston, Washington, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Chicago, Austin, and Atlanta.

Co founder Lucie Basch said “We throw away one-third of the food we produce each year. That’s $1.3 trillion worth of food that gets tossed. Food waste is responsible for 8% of greenhouse gas emissions. It has great consequences both on the environment and the economy. And socially speaking, it’s absurd to throw away the food we produce when we know today that 870 million people are underfed.”

The app connects consumers to surplus food from restaurants, bakeries, cafes and grocery stores at the end of each business day. Customers browse participating locations and can reserve and pay for a “surprise bag” on the app and head to the store during the pick-up window, which is based on each location’s closing time. There’s no fee to use the app on either end.

Basch said “Most stores do not want to run out of fresh food, so they over produce and then have waste. The app allows stores to update the amount of surplus they have in real-time, based on how sales are going throughout the day. The contents of the bag vary daily, but the consumer has an idea of what the bag will contain based on the type of food sold at the location. It’s really this win-win concept where the store doesn’t throw away food anymore and people can save food while getting three times the value of what they paid for,” Ms. Basch said. “I believe the best way to fight big causes like food waste is to make everyone part of the solution.”

The small volumes of food that stores have at the end of the day cannot effectively be redistributed to food banks or homeless shelters. The food is safe and ready for eating, but not sellable the next day. Too Good To Go fills the gap in high-density, urban areas by making it easy for consumers to pick up this surplus. The app is very straightforward, the buyer pays $4 to $6 for the bag and the store fills it with products valued at three times the price. The app takes a commission of $1.79 on every transaction, with the rest paid to the seller.

Now in 15 international markets including France, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands. Too Good To Go has quickly become the go-to for conscious consumers and businesses around the world, resulting in more than 37 million app downloads and over 72 million meals saved to date. Plans are to be in many of the largest US cities by the end of 2021.

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4 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Army Veteran Donated 36 Acres For Veterans Treatment

Army Veteran Donated 36 Acres For Veterans Treatment

US Army veteran Marty Weber donated 36 rural acres to help veterans with PTSD and addiction issues. The land bordering New Jersey’s Pinelands National Reserve will be used as a rehabilitation center/retreat for mental illness and addiction. Up to 30 percent of American veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and 14 percent suicides in the U.S. every year are vets. Many veterans also struggle with homelessness and addiction.

Weber lost his longtime partner Jeff Poissant, who was also an Army Veteran, to bladder cancer in 2017. They had purchased the property in October 1994 and had always envisioned somehow using their Ocean County Ponderosa to help fellow veterans. Weber felt compelled to realize that dream following Poissant’s death to honor their 30 year union. “We thought about a cemetery for the vets but this is going to keep them alive,” he said.

Working with two already-established homeless outreach programs—Just Believe and New Life Addiction Services—Jeff’s Camp will feature an 8,000-square-foot facility incorporating a thrift store and a sober living residence providing treatment, rehabilitation, and vocational training—all in a serene, wooded setting. As New Life does at its existing facility, it would provide initial week-long detoxification care, followed by an intensive outpatient recovery program of three hours a day once the veterans move into the residence elsewhere on the property, said the company’s co-founder and administrator Joel Albano.

Just Believe director Paul Hulse said “While New Life is working with them on the medical side, we can work on the rehabilitative/vocation side, getting them back into society, touching people, getting back into that public eye, and getting people what they need. That’s what the store is going to do. The thrift store, like one already operated by Just Believe in Toms River, would employ the veterans living on the property, stocking and selling the donated clothing and other merchandise, as a means of reintegrating them into society through regular work and interaction with the public” Hulse said. The estimated cost of the project is $2.5 million, which Hulse hopes to raise through private contributions and grants.

Weber attributes Poissant’s death to delays in receiving medical care from the Veterans Administration. He said he and Poissant both experienced firsthand some of the challenges military veterans can face. “Our government is not taking good enough care of our vets,” said Weber. “I have to do what I can in Jeff’s memory to help make things right. Weber turned down a $3 million offer for the commercially and residentially zoned property by a developer in order to make Jeff’s Camp a reality.

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4 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Dads Join Forces to Quell School Violence

Dads Join Forces to Quell School Violence

When a troubled Louisiana high school needed help, a group of dads answered the call. When tensions flared among students attending Southwood High School in Shreveport, Louisiana, a series of disturbing fights broke out over the course of a week. Twenty-three arrests were made in just 24 hours. Southwood’s campus security and officials say they tried everything to help tame the sudden uptick of violent confrontations, but to no avail.

A coalition of concerned fathers stepped up to help stop the violence. About 40 fathers came together and formed a support group called “Dads on Duty”. Together, they take turns spending time at the school greeting students in the morning and giving them words of encouragement. They also walk the halls and make sure students are getting to class on time. They say they are not a security force, but just fathers hoping to maintain a positive environment for learning, rather than fighting on campus. So far, the effort is working and there hasn’t been a single incident on campus since the dads showed up.

Michael R. La’Fitte II formed the Dads on Duty coalition to keep the halls of Southwood High safe. “We’re dads. We decided the best people who can take care of our kids are who? Are us,” La’Fitte said of the group’s mission. Another member of the group said not everybody has a father figure at home – or a male, period, in their life so just to be here makes a big difference. When La’Fitte isn’t patrolling the halls of Southwood High, he extends his passion for community service to the city’s NAACP chapter, where he serves as president.

Students say they feel much safer now that the Dads on Duty have been deployed throughout the campus. They may show a bit of tough love to students, but the group of fathers have also provided a little source of entertainment. One student said they tell alot of “Dad Jokes” and the atmosphere feels more positive. The group started with five men and has now grown to a group of 40 fathers wanting to make an impact. The Dads on Duty hope to continue spreading positivity at Southwood and said they would eventually like to expand the initiative with other chapters across the state and maybe nationwide someday.

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4 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Michael J. Fox Foundation Has Raised Over $1 Billion To Find Cure For Parkinson’s

Michael J. Fox Foundation Has Raised Over $1 Billion To Find Cure For Parkinson’s

Twenty years ago Michael J. Fox launched the Michael J. Fox Foundation ( MJFF) for Parkinson’s Research to help fund research for therapies and cures. The charity has raised more than $1 billion. His foundation has played an important role in developing therapies. The foundation has funded research that resulted in more than 20 early-stage therapeutic programs and sponsored scores of clinical trials in partnership with both academic and industry teams.

Today, more than 15 disease-modifying interventions are in clinical trials and multiple improved symptomatic therapies have achieved regulatory approval or are poised to do so. The landmark MJFF-sponsored Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative has built the most robust dataset and biosample library in the history of Parkinson’s research. Although therapies have been successful, the foundation’s single goal is to eliminate Parkinson’s completely.

While they have been leading the charge toward a world without Parkinson’s disease, the foundation says since their inception they have operated with one single-minded goal: putting ourselves out of business by finding the cure for Parkinson’s. “While we have made progress, much remains to be discovered,” the foundation’s website states. “Our relentless pursuit of a cure requires a dedicated and significant supply of human and financial capital.”

Fox was already well known for his role on “Family Ties” and the star of the “Back To The Future” movies and was working on his fifth film in three years when the first symptom of early-onset Parkinson’s disease revealed itself. He was in North Central Florida filming “Doc Hollywood” when he woke to find his pinky dancing on its own. A few days later he began having issues with his arm and saw a UF neurological specialist, Dr. Robert Watson, but the examination turned up nothing more telling than the tingling pinky finger.

Fox was just 29 years old in 1991 when he was diagnosed with the long-term degenerative disorder. Though he would not share the news with the public for another seven years, upon disclosing his condition in 1998, he committed himself to the campaign for increased Parkinson’s research. Fox said “Now there are therapies that have made life a lot better for a lot of people. I enjoy life more. I’m more comfortable in my skin than I was 20 years ago. I can sit down and be calm. I couldn’t do that 25 years ago.”

Fox is hopeful that biomarkers will be the next big step in possibly preventing the disease. “We are not just looking for a cure, we are looking for a cause, and different ways to deal with the side effects of the medication. I want people with Parkinson’s to wake up knowing that there is someone trying to get this done. I just want to get this done. I’m committed to this. I won’t stop until it happens” he said.

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1 month ago · by · Comments Off on Virginia-Based Driving Rehabilitation Program Helps Wounded Warriors Get Back On The Road

Virginia-Based Driving Rehabilitation Program Helps Wounded Warriors Get Back On The Road

A veteran who was severely injured in Afghanistan teamed up with his occupational therapist and driving rehab specialist to help people with disabilities get back into the driver’s seat. Marine veteran Josh Himan and Tammy Phipps developed the Driver Rehabilitation Center of Excellence (DRCE) in 2016. DRCE is the first driving rehabilitation program offering a full suite of services aimed at helping people who are either injured or physically challenged get back behind the wheel.

The pair first met at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, where Phipps had developed the first and only driver rehab program in the Department of Defense. Himan, one of her patients, was left paralyzed from the waist down after his vehicle drove over an IED during the last month of his deployment in 2009.

Himan said “During my time in the hospital, you know, one of their things was, what can I do back in society again? They told me that I had the ability to drive…but the problem was trying to put the whole package together.” He recalled thinking: “OK, so I have the capability of driving. But how do I find the type of vehicle? How do I know about all the things that are available for people with my disability to drive?”

Himan said trying to figure out the Veteran Affairs paperwork proved to be very distressing so he called Phipps for help in 2013. He said she helped him with the entire process, including the paperwork and actually got him driving back on the road. Phipps recalled getting multiple calls from veterans that had just transitioned into veteran status across the nation and needed help but didn’t have the right customized vehicle or resources to find one. Part of the problem is there are only around 400 occupational therapists that do driving rehabilitation and that number gets smaller and smaller, the more complex the cases become.

Himan said being able to drive again was a life changing moment for him and he knew that people like him were all over the world. The two decided to address the huge gap in services for veterans and for all people with disabilities in the area. Based in Fairfax County, Virginia, DRCE offers a full suite of services. DRCE staff will evaluate a driver and help them find auto-adaptive equipment that’s best suited to their unique needs. They will properly install the equipment for the driver and, through their driving rehabilitation programs, will get them comfortably back on the road. Veterans are not the only ones benefiting from these services, over the past five years, DRCE has helped hundreds of people who are severely injured get back out on the road and transition back into the world of mobility.

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1 month ago · by · Comments Off on New Jersey Brothers Raise $70K for Restaurant Workers

New Jersey Brothers Raise $70K for Restaurant Workers

Two New Jersey brothers, Aiden and Louis Ardine set out to walk 3,200 miles across America to raise money for restaurant workers stuck at home during COVID. The two, who are former bartenders, hoped to raise $30,000 for some charities that were helping restaurant workers waiting for restrictions to end, but ended up making $70,000—which they distributed to the COCO Fund and the Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation.

Both experienced the stresses of working in a bar during the pandemic firsthand. While they had the privilege of being able to provide for themselves after being laid off, many of their friends and family did not find themselves in the same situation. They decided to give back to the industry that they loved being a part of by shining a light on an issue important to them by sharing stories of individuals they meet along the road to raise awareness and funds for restaurant workers across the country.

They have now completed their five-month walkabout which started on the Asbury Park boardwalk in New Jersey on May 1st. “It’s been an extremely difficult year and a half, and you don’t know the obstacles people have faced and the challenges they’re still dealing with,” Aiden says. “We realized that we could walk across America and sort of pursue this challenge for ourselves, learning about America and helping people in the service industry. It was super important for us.”

At every step of the journey, they were meeting the people they’re helping and hearing their stories of strength and resilience. Verizon heard about the endeavor and launched a donation drive in support of the Ardines, who passed through 11 states over the course of 162 days, 12,000 feet in various elevation changes, and about 80 degrees in temperature variation before the job was done.

“This would not have been possible without the help of a huge community of people, whether people were donating or helping us navigate our way across the United States.” Aiden Ardine said. “This was definitely an adventure founded in a very hopeful notion about America, and it confirmed our suspicion that people are inherently good and want to help their neighbors.”

Their trip, which was documented on social media, was filled with stunning scenery, long roads, and helpful strangers. From the man who passed them in the searing heat of summer in Iowa, before doubling back and giving them a cold Gatorade to a Nevada campground manager who let them stay for free. When they reached San Francisco, their supporters were waiting for them on the beach. Afterwards they flew home along with their mom who had been in San Francisco to meet them at the end of their trek.

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