Can you imagine doing all the work for a small scale, organic farm by hand? We can’t either, which is why we are overjoyed to announce our 2021 Seeds to Grow Grant Recipient, Blooming Reed Farm of Paulden, Arizona!
Blooming Reed farmers Juan and Keeton Aguiar provide Arizonans with locally grown organic vegetables, nutritious herbs, and breathtakingly beautiful flowers with the goal of minimizing the disturbance to the soil. Sustainable agriculture can be very labor-intensive, but with the appropriate equipment, farmers can maximize profits by increasing crop yields, improving crop quality, and reducing expenses.
We’d like to give special thanks to Erich Shultz of Steadfast Farm for his technical support and expertise in choosing the appropriate agricultural equipment and tools for the location. He provides unwavering support to the regional farmers of our Arizona food system, and he played a big part in making this happen. We would also like to thank Whole Foods for helping to support us in this initiative.
Seeds to Grow is an annual funding opportunity that supports the heart of our food system with seed funding for farm equipment and essentials for Arizona's small farmers. For more information on Seeds to Grow, visit pinnacleprevention.org
When someone says change is hard…believe them.
Here we are, more than a year into our commitment as an organization to center anti-racism and equity in our practice. We’ve been bringing these hard conversations and questions into our work by asking ourselves and our partners to explore how our own identities work to uphold these power structures. Simply, self and system analysis, with the acknowledgment that this alone is not enough, and with increased humility, hard changes, power shifts and action should follow. Sounds good, right?
Well, if it were that easy….
Here we are today, ready, and willing to share some honest reflections and lessons learned…thus far. We say thus far because we have much to do to continue to challenge our own perceptions, norms, and white conditioning. The reality is that this kind of work is lifelong, never-ending, often pain-staking slow…and full of humanness…errors, and hardship.
Change is hard. We all know this. People will say this, agree to this, and sign up for the thought of change…in theory. The reality? That’s when things get tricky. And, if I’m being honest, I don’t think it’s even possible to truly, really, actually, understand just how messy diving into this work can be, even when theoretically you get that it is supposed to be tough.
The truth is, most of us avoid it or distract ourselves from the hard realities of this discomfort by focusing on surface-level work. Easy projects that keep us busy, but do not actually touch the hard root of the center. When we push away from the fluff toward reality (uh ourselves), well, the reactions in yourself and others can be surprising. In short, it is disruptive.
So, why are we writing this? We want to acknowledge that talking about doing this work can be performative, and in essence, is virtue signaling. But, we wanted to name it for our own network, as peers in this work. We know that there is no way to be “perfect”, but fears of making mistakes often lead to inaction, much like in this article about the Culture of White Supremacy.
Friends, we are not perfect.
We might be sort of screwing this up, but we know we aren’t alone either. We hope to normalize talking about the reality of systems change for organizations like ours, and those working in public health and service fields. The more we talk, the more who join, will help grow the critical mass. There is no way to dismantle this system without facing this mess. We are hoping that by talking about it, we can help strengthen our own sense of community, to help us all tackle ourselves. It’s easier when you know you’re not alone.
So, for those wanting to join this work of self-analysis, growth, and dismantling of power structures in the very systems they work in, here is what we have to share so far:
White Tears and White Fragility. Expect them to show up in yourself and others. There is no way to plan for what will come up, so preparing support for those in need may be warranted.
Our mentors have taught us that the biggest portion of this work is the work we do within ourselves. The reality of that is it brings up a lot. Some of that needs support outside of the container you are working in, and other issues might be a signal that we’ll need to work on our relationships with each other. Patience, time, trust, and awareness of it will help get to the real issues.
We hope you’ll walk along with us.
Jaclyn Chamberlain, MPH, RDN, CSP
Director of Community Engagement, Pinnacle Prevention
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How we're responding after a look in the (blind spot) mirror.
The feature article of Stanford Social Innovation Review’s (SSIR’s) spring 2021 issue, Philanthropy’s Rural Blind Spot, made a clear and compelling case for why grant makers, even when focused on equity, have historically overlooked distressed suburban and rural communities in favor of their urban counterparts. While investing in densely populated, economically disadvantaged areas has often been regarded as the supposed “best bang for the buck”, the authors of the SSIR article made the case that this traditional system of funding leaves many communities across the country invisible, throwing equity out of the window.
Interestingly, it is not just that funders are not paying attention to smaller communities, but also that many of the communities lack the human capital to apply and make the case for their own needs and innovative solutions.
“…many smaller communities and organizations applying for grants experience a resource cost problem,
wherein the administrative effort required to get a grant outweighs the value of the grant.”
Therefore, cities like Newark and Harlem, boasting high numbers of anchor institutions and non-profit organizations per capita, receive more funding than cities like Bridgeton and Flint, despite similar challenges. Conclusions of SSIR’s research run parallel to the findings captured in Pinnacle Prevention’s recently launched assessment report: Active Living in Arizona’s Rural Communities: A Call to Action.
In 2019, with funding from the Vitalyst Health foundation, we interviewed and surveyed stakeholders across the state to gain a better understanding of how nonprofit and government agencies can work together with rural and tribal communities to improve opportunities for active living. Through the process, we heard that despite a phenomenon of crumbling infrastructure juxtaposed with a growing desire for safe recreation and transportation facilities, local staff in rural and tribal communities are stretched thin and lack the time to apply or even be aware of grant opportunities. Moreover, local champions lack the capacity to navigate complex grant applications on their own. As a result, local community members continue to lack access to safe places to play, gather, and relax. A stakeholder even asked that an organization step up to serve as a “Match.com” for funders and projects.
Thankfully, last year, Pinnacle was also the recipient of a Vitalyst Health Foundation Systems Change grant to develop a collaborative effort focused on improving quality of life across the state through driving active living infrastructure investments into Arizona’s rural and tribal communities.
The Plan of Action has been to:
April 16, 2021: Please keep reading for updates on BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) grower debt relief made possible through the American Rescue Plan.
USDA has published a Frequently Asked Question document (LINK to attached PDF – can this be hosted as an upload on our website?) which answers some of the most common questions farmers have raised so far regarding eligibility, notification, and process for receiving debt forgiveness.
USDA has additional information on their website. Here is a recording and link from a recent listening session: ppt slides here.
A few key takeaways from that listening session:
For important context about the impact of this overdue news on Black agrarian history, check out these two articles:
Please share this post across your networks to ensure that BIPOC producers across Arizona have information about this new resource.
“Sometimes I wonder if the Asian-American experience is what it’s like when you’re thinking about everyone else, but nobody else is thinking about you,” Yeun said.
We're so happy to welcome Jessie Gruner back from maternity leave with our two new CIO's and friends, Hayden and Hardin. 👶👶
Having twins 8 weeks early in the middle of a pandemic has been a wild ride to say the least. But if 2020 taught us anything, it’s that we can all do hard things. Especially when we have help and support from our village. Brad and I have been so humbled by the love and support the Pinnacle team and our partners have graced us with as we welcomed Hayden and Hardin into the world. A very special thank you to my amazing team for picking up the pieces left by my very abrupt absence.
My wish for the future is that we can normalize paid parental leave. At Pinnacle Prevention, we are incredibly lucky to have paid parental leave for 12 weeks. Being able to spend those first precious weeks caring for your baby (or babies!) and yourself, is such a priceless gift – the gift of time. It’s something I will forever cherish and be grateful for. Right now we are the exception to what should be the rule. So if you’re an employer, offer paid parental leave to your employees for at least 12 weeks. And if you’re an employee or a job seeker, ask for it!
Jessie Gruner, PHD, RDN
Director of Community Innovation & Supermom
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 was signed by the President March 11, 2021. Here's what we see as the agriculture and nutrition highlights that will have a significant impact on our continued path to recovery.
Have you heard? The new 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) were recently released this past month. As we move into 2021, the timeliness and, also the irony, of the release of the guidelines is not lost on us. Timely, in that they were released just in time as 2020 turned to a close. And ironic, that the urge to focus on an ideal diet in midst of an awful pandemic - that is intimately intertwined with the longstanding injustices that are part of our food and health systems – with increased food insecurity, disruptions to our food system, political strife, and food worker injustices. The light of this context make the DGAs feel like a being offered a five-dollar coupon for an on-flight beverage after your luggage was lost and your flight was canceled. But, yet, despite these realities, our understanding of how we all SHOULD eat marches on.
The evolution of the science that goes into the DGAs is nothing to scoff at. This most recent guidance marks the 9th edition of the DGAs which have been released every five years since 1980. The process of what goes into the final document is extensive. Final guidelines are made following an extensive scientific review. The committee’s expertise and understanding of the dietary guidelines is well researched, understood, and evidence based, though it is worth noting that concerns related to food industry bias have been raised in the field.
It is also worth noting that the intent of the DGAs are in the interest of public health. The new DGAs state that key tenants of writing the guidelines are that it must: represent the totality of the evidence examined, address the needs of federal programs, reduce unintended consequences, follow best practices for developing guidelines, and use plain language. For many, these DGAs are useful for making functional food choices. In reality, humans don’t just eat for nutrition. Nobody will argue that nutrition matters; however, food is also a source of pleasure, of community, of family, of history and tradition, and life. Context also includes social and historical constructs and systems that influence choice, availability, and relationships with food. We hold in equal regard the context of eating as we do the nutrition the food provides. The complexities behind the reality of our relationships with food, and why we champion certain foods and vilify others are deep.
And there are consequences, unintended or not, from failing to include these contexts. From solely an individual behavior lens, research is continuing to mount on the impact of restriction and feeling restricted on our relationships with food with expectations that individuals should meet nutrient guidelines and patterns. Even expecting individuals to make nutrition the priority of every meal, greatly ignores the reality of life and role of psychology and environment in eating. Add in the context of poverty, food insecurity, trauma and loss of food traditions lecturing about healthy eating starts to feel like victim blaming. Our health, our diet, and wellbeing are intimately and intricately intertwined with larger systems that shape us. Things beyond individual responsibility and control. Deep rooted systems tied to historical and ongoing forms of racism, oppression, and poverty. There is design behind what is available to us and what shapes why we eat what we eat.
We are happy to see that there is recognition of the importance of reducing unintended consequences, but do these words have meaning or just a placation? The truth is, despite 40 years of increasingly detailed guidance, Americans are no closer to achieving them. The guidelines acknowledge that over time, eating patterns in the United States have remained far below the dietary guidelines recommendations. These trends are evident across all socioeconomic levels. So why are we offering slightly modified guidelines over and over every five years and expecting a different result?
What about holding the industry and systems that shape food choices accountable? Despite clear understanding of how increased sugar intake, salt and saturated fat impact health, food environments are no closer to matching the guidance. How can we expect Americans to prioritize nutrition when they are battling for basic needs, coping with injustice, and living in environments designed to add harm?
Obviously, this context matters. So, when sharing and interpreting this information, in the face of the many reasons behind why people eat what they eat, let us resist the urge to double down and smugly argue “eat less, move more.” Perhaps it is time to instead, look deeper into the contexts not included, to listen and revise our approach. In the context of moving into 2021, with the light on systemic racism, structural issues, and systemic traumas, it is time to shift power. Maybe folks aren’t meeting the guidelines because our food system is unjust. How about we stop putting the burden of meeting the guidelines on the individual when the guidelines are better targeted to the system itself.
We won’t see trends improve in meeting the dietary guidelines until the emphasis of meeting these guidelines is targeted back at not focusing on changing the individual, but rather changing the system.
We were able to deliver produce bags for seniors throughout the Valley by teaming up with:
St. Mary’s Food Bank in Surprise
Desert Mission Food Bank in north Phoenix
Justa Center in central Phoenix
Nourish PHX (formerly ICM Food & Clothing Bank) in central Phoenix
Azcend Community based in Chandler
Mercy Housing sites in Gilbert, Mesa, Glendale, and Guadalupe
We simply could not have served 1400 seniors without the dedication of so many individuals behind the scenes. From the Mercy Care Resident Services Coordinators, to the food bank directors, to everyone who helped unpack hundreds of bags from our van, many souls came together to provide delicious vegetable bags for our senior neighbors. #AZFMNP
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