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The #MINDRMAMA Guide to Everyday Advocacy

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The #MINDRMAMA Guide to Everyday Advocacy

Start with what you can do, and the parts you can’t do you’ll grow into over time.
— Audrey Symes

On Monday, the Mindr community gathered at Bluestone Lane in Hoboken for an inspiring roundtable on everyday advocacy, unpacking the ways each of us can make a positive impact on the world from exactly from where we're at today.

Our conversation was led by Audrey Symes, a stay-at-home-mama who discovered the far-reaching impacts when families can't afford diapers, and realized she had the power to do something about it. Audrey has collected and donated 25,000 diapers to date, armed with only her trusty stroller and changemaker daughter Elizabeth by her side. We also heard from Mary Madoule of the National Diaper Bank Network and Jerusha Oleksiuk of the Moms Helping Moms Foundation, two incredible organizations that are coordinating diaper collections and donations in Jersey and across the country.

From Monday's discussion, here are 4 things you need to know about diaper need and everyday advocacy:

1. 1 in 3 American families have trouble affording diapers. A recent survey by the National Diaper Bank Network and Huggies found that the average cost of diapers for one child is $18 per week, or $936 a year. Not having access to sufficient diapers can lead to health complications like diaper rash and infections, and can also mean accessing daycare is difficult (since providing enough disposable diapers is generally a condition of enrollment) and therefore can impact parents' ability to work. So the effects of diaper need reach way further into families' lives than you might think.

2. It's really easy to donate your leftover diapers to families who need them. The National Diaper Bank Network is a collective of organizations all around the country who will take your spare diapers and get them into the hands of people who need them. To donate diapers, just check the directory for the organization in your area and contact them to arrange a collection or drop-off. Karla from Little Hoboken, who participated at Monday's event, suggested organizing a diaper drive as an option in lieu of gifts for birthday parties or other celebrations, which we thought was a great idea.

3. It's also easier than you think to make an outsize impact on whatever social cause is close to your heart. We asked Audrey how she managed to mobilize herself and her community to make such a huge contribution to families with diaper need, and her response can be summarized in four words: "I just did it." So often, we want to make a difference but have no idea how to start. Audrey suggests choosing one manageable step to get the ball rolling (for her, it was a post on her local Facebook mom group offering to come around and collect diapers from anyone in her area who wanted to donate.)

4. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people can be critical to getting started. We saw the magic in the room on Monday. Just to give you one example, we loved seeing Daniela of Yogimommy connect with Amy and Regina of Skip and Play to strategize for a mommy-and-me yoga series, fulfilling Daniela's aim of serving moms' mental health needs and Amy and Regina's mission to create meaningful play opportunities for kids. Every project is easier when we can feed off the energy and ideas of people who share our goals, values and ambitions. We'd love for you to join us in future for more community-building initiatives like this one.

We're so energized by this deep and wide-ranging discussion about the power each of us has to make an impact. Check out the snaps by Lindsay Donnelly Photography below, and be sure to sign up for Mindr in your inbox and join our online community on Instagram and Facebook to stay in the know about future events. Big thanks to everyone who participated in person and on Facebook Live, and to our wonderful partners for this event: Bluestone Lane, Skip and Play, EatMetal Inc. and Lindsay Donnelly Photography.

PHOTOS BY LINDSAY DONNELLY PHOTOGRAPHY

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Five easy ways to reduce food waste in your home

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Five easy ways to reduce food waste in your home

The world produces 4 billion metric tons of food every year - nearly 17% more than it did 30 years ago. This is enough to feed the world’s population of over 7 billion people. Even so, 1 in 9 people go to bed on an empty stomach each night. The math doesn’t add up. If we are producing enough food, why does food insecurity and global hunger remain an international crisis? Why is the fact that nearly 3 million children die of under-nutrition every year not on everyone’s radar? This is both a global problem and an American problem. It touches men and women, young and old - everyone. So let’s start talking about it.

Closely tied to food insecurity is food waste. One third of global food production is wasted, costing the global economy nearly $750 billion annually. Many in developing nations cannot logistically obtain the food needed to feed their families. Food is lost during harvesting, transporting and production. The World Food Programme (WFP), who part of our upcoming event, is the food-assistance branch of the United Nations and the world’s largest humanitarian organization addressing hunger and promoting food security. WFP helps farmers get their food to the people who need it most, by providing technologies for storage and transportation helping to prevent crops from spoiling prematurely and by connecting them to markets.

In developed parts of the world, food is wasted on the plate and in the refrigerator. We over-produce and buy more than we can eat. In the United States, a family of 4 loses on average $1500 in wasted food each year. It’s something we can all work on - reducing food waste and working towards zero hunger. And making a difference is easier than you think, starting with these five steps.

  • Plan your meals and stick to grocery lists: 50% of food in America is wasted. It may seem obvious, but when making a grocery list, check expiration dates to see what needs to be used in your refrigerator first and plan a meal to use those ingredients. Just because lettuce is wilted, doesn’t mean its bad. When we are purposeful with our food purchasing we are more likely to utilize everything we buy, rather than let our impulse buys sit in the fridge past their expiration dates. Shop more frequently for fresh produce and buy smaller amounts/only what you need. 
  • Learn the art of freezing: Each of us throws away 300 lbs of food each year. The freezer is your friend. Portion out fruits, vegetables, meats and bread with your future use in mind. This will enable you to just pull out what you need for a meal and cut down on cooking too much. Additionally, get in the habit of freezing leftovers instead of tossing them in the trash. To keep your frozen food fresh and minimize freezer burn, make sure to squeeze any excess air from plastic bags and containers. Baby purees are especially easy to freeze in ice cube trays or small containers, enabling you to just pull out a couple ounces at a time to feed your little one. This also makes it easier to expand your baby’s taste buds by letting them try small amounts of different foods at once.
  • Give your overcooked veggies some love: Just toss your overcooked vegetables in a blender with stock, milk, cream, or water to turn them into soups or sauces. Broccoli, carrots, cauliflower and potatoes are all great candidates for this. Over baked fruit can be added to oatmeal or baked goods. Just because you over steamed the carrots when trying to prevent your 3 year old from tearing apart your in your living room, it doesn’t mean those mushy carrots can’t become a delicious meal.
  • With kids, start with small portions: Let’s face it, kids waste a lot of food. I have to do deep breathing exercises every time my son starts shooting blueberries across the kitchen. It’s not their fault - studies show that many children have to try a food up to 15 times before accepting it. When introducing new foods to little ones, start with small portions to minimize food waste. Once they show an interest and affinity for a new food, you can always offer seconds! 
  • Become a role model for the next generation: Our kids are watching us. They see us throw out uneaten food and whole heads of uncooked broccoli that have been sitting in our fridge too long. We are teaching them through our behavior and it’s time to start behaving more responsibly when it comes to food waste. Engage them in creating a recipe for dinner using only what is in the fridge or pantry. Volunteer or donate to a local food bank. When we show our little ones how we are all interconnected, we raise responsible citizens.

Want more? Next week, on Tuesday, June 19th, you're invited to join Mindr and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) at Ribalta Ristorante (Union Square) for a panel discussion about how to minimize food waste and stop world hunger. The panel will include Celebrity Chef and Neapolitan pizza expert Pasquale Cozzolino, WFP External Relations Officer Shannon Howard and child nutrition expert Jil Feldhausen. Trust us, you don't want to miss this.

Sarah Gibbs is a #MINDRMAMA of two and a public policy expert living with her family in Raleigh, North Carolina. Although she misses her former New York life, she’s loving exploring her new home in NC with her two littles.

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Always wanted to do more volunteering? Here's how.

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Always wanted to do more volunteering? Here's how.

#MINDRMAMA Mary Cary Peterson lives in Dallas with her husband, 12 week old son, Sam, and their two dogs. She recently left her position as a STEM/STEAM elementary instructional coach to stay at home with Sam full time. 

I had always hoped to stay home with my children during their earliest years. So when I became pregnant with our first child last summer, my mom strongly advised me to find ways to stay active in my community to avoid becoming “disconnected.” After our son Sam was born, I quickly realized her point. I was lucky not to feel socially isolated, as many of my friends are also new parents and I made a point of getting out of the house at least once a week for lunch dates or walks. But I did realize how easy it was to only talk and think about parenthood. While that may be normal to some extent, I knew I would drive myself (and my husband) crazy if my only discussion topics were baby and baby and... more baby. I needed to find something beyond reading while nursing to stay intellectually active.

So after our flurry of early postpartum visitors and family members left town, I reconnected with some of the organizations that I have volunteered since moving to Dallas two years ago, including talkSTEM, a local non-profit focused on connecting educators and other professionals involved in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) learning initiatives. Volunteering has been so meaningful in my post-baby life. If you are looking for ways to get more involved in your community or to reconnect with your pre-parent volunteer self, here are some tips for staying engaged:

Choose something that excites you.

I’ve always enjoyed volunteering for a wide variety of nonprofits, and hope to continue as Sam gets older. Right now, I devote the majority of my volunteer time to talkSTEM, because it’s the type of organization that keeps me intellectually stimulated. Their mission includes empowering young women interested in STEM fields through projects such as their Growing Lab Girls collaborative curriculum supplement.

I initially joined the organization as a volunteer docent for their walkSTEM outreach program, developed in collaboration with Dr. Glen Whitney, founder of the National Museum of Mathematics in New York. As a docent, I led walks through the Dallas Arts District to illuminate how STEM concepts are embedded in our natural and built environments, using the language of math. I also piloted the first walkSTEM after school club at the elementary school where I worked. I love the walkSTEM methodology, because it makes STEM concepts relevant, accessible and fun for everyone. I’ve led walks for groups of all ages, and it’s amazing to see how each stop generates curiosity or creates a light bulb moment for participants - even those who may have had a negative perception of math or STEM fields in school. Through talkSTEM, I’ve met professionals from a wide variety of backgrounds at events.

My advice to other moms looking for engaging volunteer opportunities? First, identify volunteer jobs you’re genuinely interested in doing - even if this means shopping around a little. I’m passionate about a lot of causes, and sometimes I’ve found myself volunteering for jobs I’m not really interested in completing (or for tasks that already have more than enough volunteers), even if I support the organization. Find something that motivates you!

Find something that fits into your schedule with your little one.

It may seem obvious, but it is critical to find an organization that has volunteer activities you can do in your “free” time. Right before Sam was born, I presented at a conference on behalf of talkSTEM with a fellow docent. Since his birth, I’ve co-written conference proposals (something I can do from home while he naps), helped advise other walkSTEM school club leaders and attended talkSTEM meetings with Sam in tow, among other activities. I appreciate the flexibility of being able to volunteer from home and enjoy staying busy. I also recognize the importance of keeping my resume current for when I decide to go back to work.

Expand your volunteer capacity.

If you find you would like to expand your volunteer capacity, find new ways to help the organization. Putting together packages at a food bank but want to do even more? Email the volunteer coordinator and find out if you can help write a grant. Texting or making calls for a local political campaign? Reach out to the campaign manager to see if they need strategic support or help coordinating a campaign event. Join a committee or create one! Plan a fundraiser. Identify your transferable/specialized skills to support an organization’s needs (e.g. designing a logo or accounting). The possibilities are endless, and many community groups rely on volunteers to come up with creative ideas to grow their vision. 

Stick to a schedule.

Finally, stick to a schedule. Speaking from experience, it can be easy to say “Yes!” to every volunteer opportunity that comes across your desk, but your time is precious and the point of volunteering is to positively engage with your community, not burn out!

Are you an active volunteer? Want to become one? Drop us a comment to let us know about your experience with volunteering, and any tips you can add to help us all find more time to give back. Want to connect with Mary about her work at talkSTEM? Send her a line here.

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