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Food

6 Do’s and Don’ts of CalFresh Benefits

By Finola Rodriguez, APIFM Health Educator

Freshly graduated from UC Irvine, I was recruited by Americorps to be an academic interventionist for 11 middle schoolers in South LA. Knowing I would survive on a modest bi-weekly stipend, I was encouraged to sign up for food stamps, which in the end taught me a ton about the level of food access the community I was serving had earning a similar monthly income. I am not a medical professional, so please take the following Do’s and Don’t tips just as suggestions and recommendations! Enjoy.

1. Do know what type of food stamps you have.

There are two kinds: EBT SNAP and EBT cash. Once after my long 10-hour day of service with Americorps, I saw a local Wendy’s with a banner that read “Accepts EBT.” I rolled through the drive-thru to discover I only had EBT SNAP, meaning I could only use my card to buy room-temp or cold food and beverages from the grocery store. Immediately my plans to use my food stamps to buy hot chicken, burgers, fries and a coffee went down the drain. Nonetheless it was a great opportunity to challenge my cooking capabilities, not settle for drive-thru meals, and better plan my nourishment for the future.

2. Don’t try to use most of your monthly food stamps on pre-packaged meals.

As tempting as it is to buy already made salads, wraps, soups, and snacks (trust me I am guilty as charged), it is not as sustainable as you think. Those were made to only last you one meal, not the whole week. Try to limit the packaged lunches to 1-2 a week max. You will get a much higher yield when you mimic some of those favorite meals while buying your own ingredients and dedicating one day of the week to make at least 3 portions for the days to come.  Not only is that more cost-efficient, but it turns out to be fun when you can dedicate time to cooking.

3. Do take your lifestyle into consideration.

Be more compassionate with yourself when planning your next meals. In a culture where it is so easy to be wrapped up in the next fad diet and the pressure to eat as fresh/organic possible, we also have to consider shelf-life and who we are providing for. Sometimes I had to buy flash-frozen fruits and vegetables because I overbought fresh produce previously. When I got too ambitious about my nourishment, my eyes would get too big at the grocery store. This unfortunately led to wasted benefits, a smelly fridge, extra money spent on meals outside, and a hungry belly. Do some research online on ‘minimal waste’ recipes and see how you can optimize your meals and time while still getting your daily nutrients. I use a lot of my leftover vegetables to make broth or sometimes freeze fruits and vegetables to make smoothies for breakfast the next morning.

4. Don’t overcomplicate when and where you buy your groceries.

Simple is better. When I first moved to Alhambra it took a couple weeks of driving around to find out which stores were around me, their opening and closing times, and when the less busy hours were to go. As much as I wanted to go to Whole Foods with my roommates I also had to keep in mind I had very limited funds in my account and I could not afford the freshly pressed juice and pre-made sushi 24/7. That being said, I did enjoy seeking advice from members of my family of their practices they utilized when they immigrated to the U.S. There can be affordable, fresh fruits and vegetables at your local 99 Cents Store, Food For Less, and 99 Ranch. It’s also helpful to look for catalogs featuring special coupons and deals in the grocery stores, consider the seasonal fruits and vegetables (they will be most likely cheaper), and dedicate time each week to make future meals for yourself. Your wellness is worth it.

5. Do take time to understand the expiration and application dates your card has.

You will get letters in the mail regarding the status of your benefits and when to reapply. Be very punctual as they need to update documentation every 6 months. So after about 5 months you will get instructions on how to do so, as well as the dates your benefits will cancel if you do not yield to their procedures. Luckily they do have the number of your social worker and they list all the documents you need to submit. If you have smartphone, consider downloading a free scanning app to ease your submission process. I would take pictures of the documents they needed (i.e. monthly rent amounts, income documents, utility bills etc.). And if you are confused just give them a call to confirm the status or check online every couple days. Do not wait last minute!

6. Don’t assume that your food stamps refill on the first of every month.

I spent my monthly amount prematurely and waltzed into a local Ralphs the first of the month. I slid my EBT card and found out that there was no balance. I was so embarrassed at the checkout and took out my debit card to pay for my groceries. After doing more research I found out that the last number of my card was the date in which they stamps refilled. For example, if the last number on your card says 6 then you will get your monthly benefit amount on the 6th of that month.

Closing thoughts…

I am sure there are many other things I learned during my year on food stamps, but if I were going to leave you with anything…. It is to not compare your food journey with anyone else’s! We all need assistance from time to time and having CalFresh can be used as an opportunity to learn proper budgeting, nourishing, and timing for your specific lifestyle. You are allowed to love yourself through feeding your body with the nutrients it needs. Listen to how your body responds to certain foods and be mindful that we all come from different cultures, backgrounds, stages of life and body types so of course your meals will look a little different.

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My APIFM internship experience – Jingtian Wu

During my internship, my favorite activity was APIFM’s produce stand at Little Tokyo. It provides fresh produce to local residences, and it educates local businesses about the fact that a lot of people are receiving government benefits. It unites the community together. By tracking how many people are on governmental benefits, such as medical and EBT card, we are trying to convince local businesses to accept EBT cards. Other interns from UCLA and I went to every single store in Little Tokyo talking about our produce stand and posting flyers on their window. I feel that it is such an excellent chance for us as interns to know the local communities by visiting all the stores. I am a pro in Little Tokyo now! : )

Youth Nutrition Workshop in Koreatown

I did nutrition education with other interns at Koreatown Youth and Community Center. We led the elementary students and preschoolers to do physical activity. Also, we educated them about seeds and gardening. I feel that it is so hard to teach them about nutrition because they do not understand and a lot of them are picky eaters. Reflecting on what I read in the book Fearless Feeding, I realize the best way to educate them about foods is to expose them to a variety of flavors and encourage them to try new things. Even though they are picky eaters and sometimes they will try something and spit them out, they are still open to trying new flavors especially when it is a group activity. There was a girl who refused most of the items we gave her, but she decided to try when she saw her friends all tried. They held the foods counting down from three and ate together. Even though they ended up running to the trash and spitting out all the foods, it was still nice to see that they were willing to try. I feel this kind of group activity of trying new things is also a form of family table. When kids look at their friends and family are having something they haven’t have before, they will be more willing to try. It proves that the family table is a great way to raise a non-picky eater.

Chinatown Residents Fundraising

In November 2018, I supported APIFM’s outreach tabling in Chinese American neighborhoods as well as nutriton workshops at Chinatown Service Center. Gladly, I met so many friendly first-generation Chinese immigrants. They came to our workshops for free cooking and Tai Chi classes. We did fundraising on the afternoon of Nov 10th to get money for the stretch band to help elders who come to our class exercise. People are very supportive. We collected enough money to purchase 30 stretch band in one day.

It is good to know that we have an organization that serves Asians and Pacific Islanders specifically. A lot of the things that they are doing benefit the entire community. It makes me want to contribute more to my community. As someone who holds a degree in nutrition, I can do something to promote the wellness and health of the community holistically.

Jingtian Wu interned with APIFM in Fall 2018 as part of a community rotation for her dietetic program at Pepperdine University.

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Farm to Chopsticks Awardee: Ken Lee

By Kyle Tsukahira

We are so excited to honor local farmer Ken Lee this year at Farm to Chopsticks. We’ve had the pleasure of partnering with Ken for the past 2 years to source organic citrus and stone fruit from his family farm located in Reedly, CA called Top Notch Produce. We love working with Ken because of his passion for the food that he grows and his commitment to providing the highest quality produce to the community. Your support helps us continue to work with farmers like Ken to get fresh, sustainably grown, and culturally relevant produce to the communities and families we serve. For more info please visit: www.apifm/ftc

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Farm to Chopsticks Awardee: Lisa Thong

By Scott Chan

If you don’t know Lisa Thong, you really should. Smart, passionate, strong-willed…these are just a few words that capture the dedication Lisa has had to community advocacy and social justice. Oh and one more word: humble.

I say humble because Lisa has done so much for APIFM, without ever asking for nor accepting credit. She just genuinely cares about the work we do around API health and food access, and has been a silent partner over the past 6 years. Whether it was helping us explore new funding and networking opportunities for our work with farmers, or presenting us with alternative forms of social enterprise for Food Roots, Lisa has always been in our corner, pushing us to take our work to the next level.

Come hear more about Lisa and why we’re giving her a well-deserved award at Farm to Chopsticks this year. More info here. 

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Farm to Chopsticks Awardee: Jessie Sanchez

Written by Diyana of APIFM staff

It’s hard to remember where I first met Jessie Sanchez (whom our whole team fondly refers to as Miss Jessie) because she showed up to our Healthy Eating & Active Living (HEAL) workshops in almost every neighborhood in the beginning! Whether it was our Tuesday sessions at LA State Historic Park, Wednesday mornings at Chinatown Service Center, or Friday nights at Pilipino Workers Center, Miss Jessie would be there, ready to soak up all she could. She took public transportation all the way from Eagle Rock, rain or shine. Miss Jessie told us she first found out about our HEAL classes from a flyer, and had been intently looking for ways to improve her eating habits after being diagnosed with diabetes and other diet-related conditions that are unfortunately so common now in API communities. Her determination to get better is impressive on its own, but we also deeply admire her equal commitment to helping others in her neighborhood and cultural community to access healthier options. She always took home as many of our HEAL class cookbooks as she could, so she could pass them out to neighbors, church friends, and even mail them to family in the Philippines. Miss Jessie also likes to share with others how she takes advantage of Market Match as part of her CalFresh benefits to afford more produce at farmers markets. All of her hard work has paid off in a big way, but I hate spoilers, so you’ll have to come to Farm to Chopsticks to hear the rest of the story from Miss Jessie, herself!

You can find out more and purchase your ticket by clicking here.

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Resource: Rethink Your Boba by APIFM Intern Chris Hernandez

 

Many thanks to APIFM intern, Chris Hernandez, for creating this new resource on what’s in boba and how to make it a bit healthier! Download the full PDF here, and please feel free to distribute! Here’s a message from Chris:

My name is Christopher Hernandez and I am a 21-year old Filipino Nutritional Science student at California State University Los Angeles. I grew up in a predominately Asian neighborhood where drinking “boba” or “boba milk tea” was the daily norm. Being a student in the nutritional science field, I saw this as a learning experience during course of my education. I wanted to find out what exactly was in the average boba drink and relay that information to the surrounding community. This would allow an individual to “rethink their boba drink.” I understand that boba milk tea is a staple in many communities. I also provided ways in which an individual could make their drink “healthier.” I too am guilty of drinking boba as I work at a boba shop. My goal is to ensure that everyone makes smarter choices when ordering their next boba drink.Boba NutritionBoba 2

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Launch of Foods Roots Produce Pantry with KIWA!

We’re thrilled to announce the launch of our first Food Roots Produce Pantry project in partnership with Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance! Read more in the press release below (PDF):

API FORWARD MOVEMENT LAUNCHES FRESH PRODUCE PANTRY WITH KOREATOWN IMMIGRANT WORKERS ALLIANCE

Asian Pacific Islander Forward Movement (APIFM), a Los Angeles-based community health organization, is launching its first Food Roots Produce Pantry Project in partnership with Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance (KIWA), a multi-ethnic community-based organization focused on organizing low-wage immigrant workers in workers’ rights, equitable development, and immigrant justice.

The pantry will bring 1600 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables, all sustainably grown by local small farms, to KIWA community members and affordable housing tenants from March 2018 through July 2018. The project will also include monthly healthy cooking classes where pantry participants learn to cook recipes using vegetables and fruits from the pantry.

The first Food Roots Produce Pantry distribution event will occur on March 6, 2018 at 6:00 PM at KIWA’s office, located at 1053 S New Hampshire Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90006.

The project is made possible due to individual donors as well as funding from Capital Group and Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s Champions for Change – Healthy Communities initiative. APIFM and KIWA share a commitment to increasing access to healthy food and health justice for Asian Americans and other communities of color in Koreatown, a neighborhood where over a quarter of families live below the federal poverty line.

Learn more about APIFM at https://apifm.org, and its Food Roots social enterprise at http://foodroots.co. APIFM is a division of Special Service for Groups, Inc. Learn more about KIWA at http://kiwa.org.

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Bring Food Roots Produce Pantry to your community!

Food Roots Logo

Produce Pantry Project | Online application due 1/15/18

Download this application information as a PDF

Thanks for your interest in the Food Roots Produce Pantry! Food Roots is a project of Asian Pacific Islander Forward Movement (APIFM), a nonprofit dedicated to cultivating healthy, long-lasting, and vibrant API communities through grassroots organizing. Our team advocates for healthy eating, food access, active living, environmental justice, and other issues that make good health possible.

Through Food Roots, we connect our communities to culturally relevant, sustainably grown fruits and vegetables while supporting California farmers of color. The Produce Pantry is a special initiative of Food Roots, made possible by the individual donors and foundations committed to ensuring that low-income community members have access to fresh, local produce.

What am I applying for?
This is an application to bring a Food Roots Produce Pantry to your site for five (5) months, twice a month. In addition to the Pantry, our team will offer a monthly healthy eating class at your site, including a recipe demonstration that provides examples of how your community members can prepare/cook the produce they receive from the Pantry. We’ll also work with you to explore how you can keep this effort going beyond the scope of the partnership.

Timeline:

    • 1/15/18 Applications due by 11:59pm
    • 2/5/18 Winner announced
    • 2/6/18-2/28/18 Planning for produce pantry and class launch
    • 3/2018-7/2018-Produce Pantry (twice a month) on the following Monday dates: March 12th & 26th; April 9th & 22nd; May 7th & 21st; June 4th & 18th; July 16th & 30th. Monthly classes occur throughout; dates/times to be determined during planning phase

Is my site eligible?
To be eligible for Food Roots Produce Pantry, your site must:

  • Primarily serve those living at ≤185% of the Federal Poverty Level (especially those who are eligible for, or participate in, CalFresh).
  • Be located in or near Chinatown, Historic Filipinotown, Koreatown, or Little Tokyo, and have an emphasis on serving Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) communities.
  • Be able to allocate staffing or volunteers on a consistent basis who will: 1) receive training from us and work with us to run the Pantry and support classes, 2) conduct regular outreach to your community to ensure turn-out at the Pantry and classes, and 3) be able to interface with your community in relevant language(s).
  • Have storage space for two (2) large coolers, where the space is room temperature or lower.
  • Have an appropriate, accessible location for the Pantry and monthly classes, including tables and chairs.

Preference will be given to sites/organizations that can demonstrate a clear community need, as well as a commitment to expanding access to healthy food in the long-term.

What exactly is the Produce Pantry? What does it look like and how does it run?
It’s pretty simple. We will come to your site twice a month (on Mondays) and work with your staff/volunteers to set up two (6-foot) tables and lay out the produce on those tables. That’s the “Pantry,” and we’ll keep it “open” for about two hours each time we come. We will work with your staff/volunteers during those two hours to distribute the produce to your community members. Before we actually launch the Pantry days, we will meet with you to determine scheduling and outreach.

Where does the produce come from? How much does each Pantry give out?
All the produce comes from small California farms run by Asian Americans and other farmers of color who use sustainable growing practices. Our donor base has contributed money so that we can purchase produce from our Food Roots farmers and distribute it to low-income individuals and families. If your site is selected, we will use those donations to cover the cost of produce from our Food Roots farmers, and bring it to you on Produce Pantry days. Our team will need to deliver the produce in coolers earlier the day of the Produce Pantry, and then return later to set up and co-run the Pantry with your staff/volunteers. Each Pantry will have 25 lbs of produce available for distribution, and each Pantry will have a different variety of produce. For example, one Pantry might offer 10 lbs of oranges (about 20-23 oranges), 10 lbs of bok choy (about 30-40 individual bok choys), and 5 lbs of carrots (about 25 carrots). Depending on the size of the community you serve and expected turnout, we will help you determine the maximum that each individual/family should receive.

APIFM HEAL ClassWhat are the monthly classes about?
To be eligible for the Food Roots Produce Pantry, you must be able and willing to host monthly healthy eating classes at your site. We are able to conduct these classes via funding from Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s Champions for Change initiative, which seeks to promote healthy living for SNAP/SNAP-Ed/CalFresh-eligible people. Your site would host five (5) classes total, one during each month of our Produce Pantry partnership, and each class would be between 60 and 90 minutes long. The class agenda typically involves at least 30 minutes of education about basic nutrition, about 30 minutes for a recipe demonstration, and some physical activity if time allows. For your site’s class series, we would demonstrate and discuss healthy recipes that use vegetables and fruit we provide at the Produce Pantry, and share the nutritional benefits of those produce items.

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Our food hub’s new brand! Food Roots

We’re excited to officially unveil the new name, brand, and website for our food hub: Food Roots! Check out the press release below to learn more. Shout out to Whole Cities Foundation and Giant Robot Media for making this revamp possible, and to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the national food hub expert consultants that helped us create a comprehensive plan for continuing to expand this area of our work.


Download the PDF of this press release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 27, 2017

API Forward Movement Launches Rebrand of Roots Food Hub to Food Roots

(Los Angeles, CA) – Asian Pacific Islander Forward Movement (APIFM), a Los Angeles public health community-based organization, today unveiled the new brand of its food hub program: Food Roots. The mission of Food Roots is to connect local and sustainably grown Asian specialty foods to communities and businesses in the greater Los Angeles area while supporting Asian American small farms and other farmers of color in California.

“The new Food Roots brand is a culmination of our team’s efforts to deepen the accessibility and sustainability of this work,” said Scott Chan, APIFM Program Director. “We’ve been supporting local farmers and bringing their produce to Los Angeles communities since 2012. With the Food Roots vision and plan, we have a clear path for growing our farmer network, consumer base, and the community impact of this local food system.”

Formerly called Roots Food Hub, Food Roots started in 2012 as a volunteer-run Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) project, where volunteers and farmers worked together to bring bags of sustainably grown, local Asian produce to a small subscriber base of individuals and families. The project, managed by APIFM Program Manager Kyle Tsukahira, has expanded since then from 12 to over 100 subscribers across 10 CSA drop-off sites, and now also supplies produce on a wholesale basis to local corner stores, restaurants, and community centers. The corner store distribution work occurs in partnership with Leadership for Urban Renewal Network, Inc. and Los Angeles Food Policy Council as part of the the Community Markets Purchasing Real and Affordable (COMPRA) Foods project, which distributes fresh produce to small stores in “food desert” neighborhoods of Los Angeles.

With the support of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, APIFM worked with national food hub experts from the Wallace Center at Winrock International to produce a business and food safety plan for Food Roots in 2017. The new Food Roots brand was produced in collaboration with Giant Robot Media, with funds from Whole Cities Foundation.

Read more about Food Roots at http://foodroots.co.

About API Forward Movement
APIFM cultivates healthy, long-lasting, and vibrant Asian and Pacific Islander communities through grassroots organizing. Our programs focus on healthy food access and nutrition education, active living and community-informed transportation, culturally-responsive community health work, and environmental justice. We are working towards a world where Asian and Pacific Islander communities–and all communities of color–have full power to access good health and a healthy environment. APIFM is a division of the nonprofit Special Service for Groups, Inc. Learn more at www.apifm.org.

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