Kickstarter Tuesdays: Good And Cheap / The Before Project


Geek Alabama Kickstarter Projects

This week on Kickstarter Tuesdays, I am talking about one project about a way to eat healthy and cheap.  And another project talking about a special documentary film!

Good And Cheap Cookbook

Leanne Brown created Good and Cheap which is a gorgeous cookbook for tight budgets. It’s free online, but they want to get it out to more people by funding a print run.  They want your help to fund printed copies so that they can get Good and Cheap into the hands of people who don’t have computers or who wouldn’t otherwise see it. The expensive part of printing books is the initial set-up; the cost of each additional copy is fairly low. The more books you buy, the more she can donate or sell at a massive discount to organizations that support low-income families on SNAP (the modern name for Food Stamps).

So what is the book like?  Just download a free PDF and take a look for yourself!  But since you asked, it’s 132 pages (so far!) of beautifully designed and photographed recipes that fit into a $4/day budget — without seeming like it. This is good food that happens to be inexpensive.  If you downloaded the book when it first when viral, grab a new copy: the earlier version was just a draft, but the final version of Good and Cheap has been edited and redesigned throughout.  She wants this book to be as accessible as possible. That’s why she has made it free online, and nearly 100,000 downloads to date proves there is both a willing audience and a need.

Her dream is that everyone who could benefit from this book would be able to get a copy, at whatever price they can afford.  For many, that means keeping it free — even in printed form.  Because printed books cost money, a scheme was born: $25 buys one copy for you and a second copy that she will donate to someone who needs it.  Once she reaches her goal, she will approach organizations to figure out who to entrust with getting these books into the hands of low-income families and individuals.  She hopes to be able to work with a variety of organizations for the greatest reach.

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She created this cookbook as the capstone project for her master’s degree in Food Studies at NYU.  She wanted to make something that not only summed up the work she had done during her studies, but also had a useful life outside of academia.  It bothered her that so many ideas for fixing the food system leave out the poor: it seemed like they didn’t have a voice in the food movement.  She wanted to create a resource that would promote the joy of cooking and show just how delicious and inspiring a cheap meal can be if you cook it yourself.  Even though Food Stamps help millions of people across the United States every day, benefits were reduced in November despite rising food prices.  It’s more important than ever to make the most of what you have with savvy shopping techniques and skillful cooking. That’s Good and Cheap.

As of June 10th, this Kickstarter project has raised around $24,500 of the $10,000 goal they need to be funded. And as you know in Kickstarter, a project is not funded until the fundraising goal is reached! This project only has 33 days left to raise as much as it can!  For a pledge of $5, you will get the PDF of the book plus your name listed in the book.  For a pledge of $25, you will get a hardcover copy of Good And Cheap, one book will be given to someone in need, and get your name listed in the book!  To learn more about Good And Cheap and to pledge money, go to:  https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/490865454/good-and-cheap

The Before Project

Do you remember your 11th birthday?  What about your 12th?  What were you doing? What was your favorite TV show?  Who was your best friend?  What was the saddest thing that had ever happened to you up to that point?  For Terence Brown, it’s all pretty hazy.  You know…they were the awkward years.  But now that he spends everyday with an 11 year old son, he is sometimes viscerally reminded of just how confusing and transitional this time actually was.  Tweens occupy a kind of weird but amazing phase in life; they’ve got one foot firmly rooted in childhood and one foot stepping into adolescence. There’s just a whole lot going on: questions about self-esteem and body image, mortality and sexuality start entering the picture but that kid/adolescent brain is not quite sure how to sort it all out.

He supposes this is why so many of us forget about these years–because we were still works in progress.  He is a filmmaker by profession and has volunteered some time over the years filming his son Jack’s classmates at his elementary school.  Last year he thought it might be interesting to film some very short interviews with a class of 4th graders just to see what they would say.  Here’s what they said: 4th Grade  Now that this group of 60+ kids is heading to middle school, he is planning to film more extensive interviews with each 5th grader this June. he is going to spend roughly 30 minutes with each student, asking them a wide range of questions.

The final project will be a documentary short called “Before.”  His goal is to explore and even celebrate this awkward and thankfully fleeting phase of life.  The final video will live on a site they are creating called thebeforeproject.org.  The plan is to create an interactive site where people from around the world can contribute content and stories about the tween years.  The “Before” documentary is meant to start of conversation more than make a statement. The kids he is filming are not an extremely diverse bunch and he realizes that whatever they create is only part of a much bigger story that extends across culture, race, income, time era, etc..  thebeforeproject.org will be a place to collect these stories and content so that experiences of tweens around the world can be heard.

As of June 10th, this Kickstarter project has raised around $10,180 of the $11,000 goal they need to be funded. And as you know in Kickstarter, a project is not funded until the fundraising goal is reached! This project only has 4 days left to reach the $11,000 goal. For a pledge of $1, you will get your name listed at the end of the film, and get a HD digital download.  For a pledge of $20, you will get everything listed above plus a DVD of the film!  To learn more about The Before Project and to pledge money, go to:  https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/299517091/the-before-project

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Arizona SB 1062 Bill Is Vetoed / Five Crazy Bills In The 2014 Alabama Legislature


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This week, Arizona has been a hotbed of controversial news.  SB 1062 would have allowed any business that asserted their religious beliefs the right to deny service to gay and lesbian customers.  The bill was so controversial, some Arizona legislators wanted to change their vote, after they voted YES.  Many businesses and people were calling for Governor Jan Brewer to VETO this bill, and they got their wish.  A few hours ago, the governor vetoed the bill, and unless there is a legislature override, the bill is dead.

And sadly, I thought this would happen if Governor Jan Brewer signed SB 1062.  Some legislator down here in Alabama would have proposed something similar, and it would have passed with flying colors.  Now, that this bill is now dead, unless the Arizona Legislators are stupid, I believe the legislators here in Alabama will think twice before proposing something similar to the Arizona bill.  But sadly, there are other bills currently going through the Alabama Legislator that could cause Alabama some embarrassment.  Here are the five bills going through the Alabama Legislature that are a black eye for Alabama, and it will make the state a laughing stock once again.

School Prayer Bill

Rep. Steve Hurst, R-Munford, near where Geek Alabama is based, has proposed a bill that would allow teachers and/or principals to spend 15 minutes per school day to read opening prayers said before a meeting of the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate.  So far, this bill has passed a voice vote in the House Education Policy Committee, even though most members did not vote for it, how does that happen?  And did the Alabama Legislature forget about the separation of church and state?

The bill still has to pass both the House and Senate, and if it does pass and gets signed by the governor, Alabama is going to be using taxpayer funds to defend this law in court.  Because several organizations have already said they will sue the state if this bill becomes law.  The biggest problem I have with this, what if the prayer from Congress was a Muslim prayer,(it has happened before) would teachers in Alabama read it?  And would students have a option to stay out of the classroom during the prayer?  Yeah, I don’t see this bill passing.  And that 10 commandments bill will also be challenged in court and lose as well.

HB 31 - Health Care Rights of Conscience Act

This bill would allow health care providers to refuse, perform, or participate in any medical health care service that violates their moral, religious, or ethical principles, but only if the health care service involves women’s reproductive systems.  This almost sounds like that Arizona SB 1062 bill.  Bill sponsor Rep. Becky Nordgren, R-Gadsden, says the bill is meant to protect healthcare workers from being forced to do anything against their religious beliefs.  And no, this bill is not only about abortions.

Passage of this bill could result in hospital staff refusing to take part in ending a woman’s pregnancy during a miscarriage even if her health was at stake.  Anyone in the health care profession could also refuse to participate in abortion, sterilization, human cloning, and embryonic stem cell research.  Good job legislature, pass a bill that could harm the health of a woman because it might violate someone’s religious beliefs.  One has to ask this question, where is the outcry against this bill like that other bill in Arizona?  And yes, I know about the other abortion bills in Alabama, and they are wrong!

Common Core Bill

Most states and schools in America have adopted the Common Core standards that were developed by the National Governors’ Association.  But sadly, some conservatives out there believes these standards are leading towards a nationalization of public education. The real truth, business associations and state education groups have embraced the standards saying they will boost Alabama student performance.  These standards are not a Federal takeover of education, these standards are to make sure students are ready for the real world after they graduate from high school.

Several legislators including Sen. Scott Beason, are sponsoring a bill to repeal the standards, which is a boneheaded decision.  But some legislators like Sen. President Del Marsh, and Alabama Superintendent Tommy Bice, who I found out both read this blog, are working to make sure this bill does not see the light of day.  I agree with what the Alabama School Board has said, why are people going after legislators to repeal Common Core.  Why are these people instead going to school boards?  Repealing Common Core will allow Alabama to become a joke when it comes to education.

Welfare Bills

Five welfare bills are quickly passing through the Alabama Legislature.  One bill would require a drug test for anyone that has a drug conviction in the last five years and applying for TANF.  Another bill would require someone to apply for three jobs before applying for TANF.  Another bill would prohibit TANF funds from being used on alcohol, tobacco, lottery tickets, and psychic hotlines or at strip clubs and tattoo parlors.  And another bill would prohibit fraud to receive public benefits.  Although I support the first four bills, there is one bill I have a problem with.

State Senator Bryan Taylor, R-Prattville, introduced a bill requiring welfare recipients to perform community service to receive their benefits.  Later, the bill was changed that would prohibit the state from seeking waivers of work requirements for able-bodied adults under the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, also called food stamps.  So for someone like me, who has applied to over 500 jobs, been to 14 job fairs, and no one will give me a chance.  I am screwed come October because I have to rely on Food Stamps to get by.  Wonderful, this will be another expense my relatives will have to pay now.  And I know I am not the only person in Alabama who will be affected by this.

General Fund Budget

Alabama does fund the Education Budget pretty well.  But when it comes to the General Fund budget, the legislators treat it very poorly.  The budget for this year is being boosted by $145 million borrowed from the Alabama Trust Fund.  And without extra funds, the budget for next year looks awful.  And that is not good for a state that is trying to attract new jobs and recruit new industries.  Without the proper support from state government, people will not think about moving to Alabama.

Let’s see, Alabama can’t fund their courts properly.  The prison system is severely overcrowded and there is abuse in the women’s prison.  And state employees are not being properly funded.  So Alabama is going to have no choice but to look for new sources of funding.  They are hoping Congress will allow Alabama to collect an internet sales tax.  But why is Alabama not considering allowing a state lottery and gambling?  Every state around Alabama either has a lottery or casinos.  Alabama could become a tourist destination if gambling was approved, and taxes would not have to go up!

To sum things up, things are going so well in Alabama politics, the Alabama Republican Party Candidate Committee has rejected several candidates for not being Republican enough.  That’s too funny!  At least House Bill 141, that would keep the low-cost spay and neuter clinics, is going through the legislature, and I hope it passes!

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Shape Up!: The Doctor and Dental Visits


Geek Alabama Shape Up!

Here is a special edition of Shape Up!  This post is going to talk about my last two doctor visits and the attempted dental visit that did not end well.

For the last two years, I have been on a slow attempt to get into better shape.  Yes, I have lost some weight and have eaten better.  But when you have been unemployed for 27 months now, there’s not much you can do.  Also, being on Food Stamps limits your food choices.  I only get around $200 a month for all of my groceries.  That means I only eat one meal a day with a snack around lunchtime.  I do get meats and fresh produce which costs a little more.  I know I could go the cheap processed food route but that would blow my weight up!

Since I have been unemployed for 27 months now, I went to the Quality of Life clinic in Anniston.  Their co-pays for people on Food Stamps, Medicaid, Disability, and other assistance are affordable!  I only paid $20 for each visit.  During my first visit, my blood pressure readings were taken, and they were way too high!  Then my weight was taken, and it was at 400 lbs.  That’s better than the nearly 500 lbs. I was at around two years ago.  Ms. Covington told me my blood pressure levels were too high, and she prescribed me Lisinopril, which treats the high blood pressure.  Then she ordered some lab work, it did not cost anything extra, I just hate needles!  Yes, in the past people have had to hold me down to get an injection.  I acted like a man this time and got my blood drawn.

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For my second visit, my lab results were revealed!  My thyroid and bad cholesterol levels was fine.  My good cholesterol levels were sightly lower.  I had a sightly higher red blood cell count and my white blood cell count was fine.  My blood sugar counts were normal.  And functions of the kidneys, livers, and heart were going normally.  My Triglycerides levels were also slightly elevated.  After a second visit to the doctor’s office, my blood pressure counts were down from the first time around, so the medication was working.  But the doctor also wanted me to take a low dose Aspirin daily.  I was also prescribed another medication called Carvedilol, which treats the high blood pressure.

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And to freak me out, Quality Of Life sent me a bill in the mail for $311.00.  I thought, this can’t be right, a general check-up and lab work can not cost that much.  I took the bill to the receptionist and they worked quickly to fix the error.  I owed nothing extra other than the $20 I paid for the visit.  I will be back for a 3 month check-up in December, unless I have moved away from the Anniston area.

Now for the dental, Quality of Life has a dental department and they do cleanings, cavity work, and extractions.  But sadly, they don’t work on crowns, caps, or root canals.  I will have to go to another dentist that will do that work.  The people working there told me I needed to get the cap issue fixed and then I could come back for a cleaning.  The cost for a cleaning will only be around $25 since I am on Food Stamps.  They did go ahead and take an advanced x-ray of my teeth.  That x-ray is good, you can see where I have had cavities filled and where I have had the root canal.

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So, for now my cap is still off of the tooth, but there is no pain.  I will need to find another dentist that will work with me on the cap, and it will cost some money.  The office has the x-ray copy and can easily send it over to the dentist office I go too.  And the good thing, I was not charged for the x-ray!  So there you go, there is an update on my overall health.  I hope I can resume my weekly posts about what I am doing to get in better shape as soon as someone hires me again and I have the income to eat better and do better exercising other than walking.

 

Sunday Discussion: Go Orange for No Kid Hungry Day


Geek Alabama Discussion

Today is a special day, today is Go Orange for No Kid Hungry Day.  This day highlights the problems and solutions for child hunger.  And many people does not realize the problem of child hunger in America, and the number is huge!  Nearly one in five children in America lives in households that struggle to put food on the table.  They may look no different than other children; child hunger in America is often invisible.  They are hurting, just the same.  Sure, kids who struggle to eat at home can get a free or reduced lunch at school, but try learning or surviving the day with only one meal?  It’s a lot harder than you think!

48.8 million Americans—including 16.2 million children— live in households that lack the means to get enough nutritious food on a regular basis.  As a result, they struggle with hunger at some time during the year.  Many of these families rely either on food charities or the SNAP or food stamp program to survive.  And with the US House and Republicans wanting to cut the SNAP program by billions of dollars, these needy families are in jeopardy of going hungry.  In communities like here in Anniston with still record high unemployment in 2013, food charities can not keep up with the high demand of hungry people.  And if SNAP is cut, people will go hungry!

Some of you might say these hungry people needs to find a job, and then I laugh at these people.  East Alabama and West Georgia has some of the highest unemployment in the southeast US.  Just look at these unemployment numbers for July 2013.

Unemployment

People can not find jobs around here.  And when a job fair for a new business is held, thousands of people apply for around 100 jobs that are available.  Simply put, there are no jobs here in Anniston / Oxford or in NE Alabama / NW Georgia.  I am surviving on food stamps and have been unemployed for 26 months now.  I have applied to over 425 jobs and been to over 14 job fairs across Alabama and Georgia.  I am not alone, there are other people who are in the same boat as me.  The long-term unemployed are scraping by while others are succeeding.  Often, the long-term unemployed are surviving by only eating one meal a day and are on food stamps.  This is something that has got to change!

Here are some other facts about food insecurity:

  • Rates of food insecurity are substantially higher than the national average among households with incomes near or below the federal poverty line, among households with children headed by single parents (35.1% of female-headed households with children are food-insecure) and among Black and Hispanic households.
  • Food insecurity is most common in large cities but still exists in rural areas, suburbs and other outlying areas around large cities
  • 25 % of households with children living in large cities are food-insecure.
  • The typical (median) food-secure household spent 27 percent more for food than the typical food-insecure household of the same size and composition.
  • 59% of food-insecure households reported that in the previous month they had participated in one or more of the three largest federal food and nutrition assistance programs: SNAP (formerly food stamps), School Lunch and WIC.

Children and adults who go hungry can not function as well as people who are doing fine.  In school, 3 out of 5 teachers say they have children in their classrooms who regularly come to school hungry.  Many teachers spend money out of their own pockets to buy food so kids can learn without having a growling stomach.  Yes, kids can get a meal during lunch, but what happens when schools are closed during the Summer?  Here is a test for you, try learning and concentrating on an empty stomach?  It’s not going to happen!

And if you think hunger is something our country can ignore, think again!  According to a report by the Center for American Progress and Brandeis University, “hunger costs our nation at least $167.5 billion due to the combination of lost economic productivity per year, more expensive public education because of the rising costs of poor education outcomes, avoidable health care costs, and the cost of charity to keep families fed.  Also, “food insecurity led to a loss of $19.2 billion in [life-time] earnings in 2010.”  Hunger also costs everyone!  In 2010, “it cost every citizen $542 due to the far-reaching consequences of hunger in our nation.” If the number of hungry Americans remains constant, “each individual’s bill for hunger in our nation will amount to about $42,400” on a lifetime basis.

Luckily, there is an organization that is committed to stopping the problem of hunger.  Share Our Strength is a national organization that works hard to make sure no kid in America grows up hungry.  They weave together a net of community groups, activists and food programs to catch children facing hunger and surround them with nutritious food where they live, learn and play.  There are solutions to the hunger problem in America!

One, schools needs to provide school breakfasts and lunches, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and kids needs breakfast!  Schools also needs to provide Summer meals for needy kids as well!  Two, education is needed so kids and parents can stretch food dollars and cook healthy meals at home.  And of course, there needs to be more awareness to the hunger problem.

Another great organization, Feeding America, provides food to 37 million low-income people in America.  One way food can be provided to low-income people is to protect the SNAP program.  I have seen the comments from some people online who say the program is full of waste and people are lazy and relying on government assistance.  No, most people are not lazy, we just don’t get a chance to get a foot in the door.  If Congress is successful, more people in America will go hungry!  And the food pantries and soup kitchens will not be able to keep up!

Another thing for people in Alabama.  Alabama is one of a few states that charges a full sales tax on groceries.  In some areas, up to a 10% sales tax is charged for everything including groceries.  The Alabama Legislature needs to end the sales tax on food so poorer people can afford to buy groceries, but with the Republican controlled legislature running the show, I don’t expect that to happen anytime soon, sad!

Learn more about Share Our Strength at: https://www.nokidhungry.org/

Learn more about Feeding America at: http://feedingamerica.org/

Shape Up! – Week 59


Geek Alabama Shape Up!

This is week 59 in my series of Shape Up!  The weekly post on what I did over the last week in my quest to getting healthier.

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You would think America would not have a hunger problem.  But sadly; it does!  Fifty million people in the U.S.—one in four children—don’t know where their next meal is coming from.  Hunger poses serious economic, social and cultural implications for our nation, and that it could be solved once and for all, if the American public decides — as they have in the past — that making healthy food available and affordable is in the best interest of us all.  This is the plot for A Place At The Table.

Hunger is mostly due to income.  Here in Alabama, a full sales tax is charged on groceries.  Along with Mississippi, Alabama is only one of two states that does not offer any offset, rebate, or break on sales tax on food and groceries.  Several legislators have offered a bill to remove the sales tax on groceries, but as you know, the Alabama Legislature can be crazy at times!  So I do not see any relief in the sales tax anytime soon.    You can learn more about the Alabama Food Tax Bill at: http://www.alabamafoodtax.com.

One solution to solve hunger has been the SNAP program, or Food Stamps.  Since I have been unemployed for 21 months now, I have been on Food Stamps for the last few months.  I get $200 a month for food purchases.  This does not go a long way at all!  I only eat one meal a day and at times a snack.  When I cover an event I will often do it on an empty stomach.  I care about getting the best pictures and videos of events to put on Geek Alabama.  So if that means I work while hungry, so be it!

Other families often face this problem, they make enough income so they can’t qualify for Food Stamps.  How can a family of 4 survive on an income of $28,000 a year?  Simple, they can’t!  These children often learns on an empty stomach in school and lunch can be the only meal they get during the day.  During the weekends, they often go hungry.   Some schools do programs where they send home food to less fortunate kids during the weekends.  I am going to say this, we have got to do a better job feeding the hungry!

The film A Place At The Table illustrates the need for fair pay, a living wage, and funding for programs like SNAP.  If our country adopted these models, they believe, as do many others, that as pervasive as hunger is, it’s still a solvable issue—one that could be remedied within years, not lifetimes.  I agree that the Food Stamp program needs to kick out the people abusing it.  Yes, I have seen some people abusing the program before.  And  we have got to do a better job paying a fair wage for workers.  This is why I support a raise in the minimum wage to $9 an hour.  Hunger in America has got to go!

To learn more about A Place At The Table go to: www.takepart.com/place-at-the-table.

Along with some walking, here’s is what I ate last week!

Saturday: Pizza, Sweet Tea.

Sunday: Chicken Breast and Brown Rice, Sweet Tea.

Monday: Hotpockets, Sweet Tea.

Tuesday:  Pork Chops and Brown Rice, Sweet Tea.

Wednesday: Burger and Fries, Sweet Tea.

Thursday: Pork Chops and Brown Rice, Sweet Tea.

Friday: Burger and Fries, Sweet Tea.

Have a wonderful week everyone!