Author: Kate Bolz

Extra Credit: Resources for Non-Traditional, Parenting, and Low-Income Students

Getting a degree is one of the best long-term pathways out of poverty for low income families.  Degree completion is also important to colleges and universities, especially important now as more non-traditional students are seeking post-secondary education. Research shows that access to public assistance programs, such as Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, can help keep students in school… Read more →

Summer Food Programs keep hungry kids fed year-round

As we get ready for Thanksgiving this week and our thoughts are turning to the upcoming holiday season, summer seems far away. But it’s not too soon to imagine great possibilities for summer feeding programs for our kids, thanks to new funding from the Nebraska Department of Education Nutrition Services Division. Many people are surprised to discover that 42 percent… Read more →

Opportunity Scorecard reveals struggles, suggests solutions for working families in Nebraska

Economic security for Nebraska families is key to making our state great.  But, despite working hard, too many Nebraska families struggle. A new assessment from Nebraska Appleseed released today examines how Nebraska stacks up in key economic indicators for working families.  The Nebraska Opportunity Scorecard measures economic security, economic mobility, and economic opportunity in the state compared to the rest… Read more →

Five Things the U.S. Census Bureau Tells us About Poverty in Nebraska

The U.S. Census Bureau recently released a study regarding poverty nationwide and in Nebraska.  What does this data tell us about how we are faring as a state?  Five key points become clear: 1. Nebraska’s poverty levels are not improving: The number of people nationwide living in poverty remained essentially unchanged from a year ago, but slightly more Nebraskans are… Read more →

Talk about Poverty: Jessica’s Story

Jessica Bartholow is one of the brightest and most hard working anti-poverty advocates out there, and I’m proud to know her.  She shares her story, and her questions for President Obama and Governor Romney regarding how they would ensure economic security in this article from “The Nation.” Jessica is a testament to the idea that smart investments in our people,… Read more →

Defending the First Line of Defense Against Hunger

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps), is frequently referred to as the nation’s first line of defense against hunger.  Since the beginning of the program, SNAP has helped millions of Americans avoid hunger and malnutrition, especially children, the elderly, and people with disabilities (for a historical perspective on SNAP, watch “Food Stamps Make America Stronger”).… Read more →

Summer Meals Progress Report

During the school year, thousands of Nebraska children benefit from the National School Lunch Free and Reduced Price Meals program.  This program assures that low-income kids have access to nutritious meals in schools so that they can learn and grow. Unfortunately, hunger rates increase in the summer, especially for kids. In Nebraska, we reach just one in ten kids who… Read more →

“Hunger Hits Home” Documentary Viewing & Summit

Hunger Free Heartland Anti-Hunger Summit Join Hunger Free Heartland and partners to talk about what is being done to end childhood hunger here in in the metro area (Douglas, Sarpy and Pottawattamie counties) and across Nebraska. View:  “Hunger Hits Home”, a new documentary from Share Our Strength. Learn from advocates and local legislators what you can do to affect change and make a difference! See more… Read more →

Time, Patience, Justice

Here at Nebraska Appleseed, we have heard a lot about ACCESS Nebraska, the new system for managing Health and Human Services programs using on-line applications and call centers instead of caseworkers. We’ve heard from intake callers, folks who participated in listening sessions this fall, and people who testified at the interim study hearing and bill hearing. The case for action… Read more →

Nebraska Organizations Urged to Sign SNAP Support Letter to Senators Nelson and Johanns

Every five years, Congress reauthorizes the Farm Bill, a comprehensive piece of legislation that includes, among other items, SNAP/Food Stamps. This year, the Farm Bill is up for reauthorization. As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Senators Nelson and Johanns are key players in the Farm Bill reauthorization effort. As Farm Bill deliberations heat up, we need to demonstrate… Read more →

Kids Crusin’ Kitchen Food Truck Visits Capitol

The “Kids Crusin’ Kitchen” mobile summer food truck visited the Nebraska State Capitol today to draw attention to childhood hunger problems and solutions.  The truck, operated by the Food Bank for the Heartland, The Salvation Army, and Hunger Free Heartland, serves meals to children in low-income communities during the summer. “One in six children in Nebraska struggles with hunger,” explains… Read more →

Educate, Innovate to Compete

It’s March Madness. If your office is anything like Nebraska Appleseed’s, the intense water cooler conversations have begun. Competition can bring out the best in us. It can push us to stretch our boundaries, find new ways to get things done, and do our best. It’s time for Nebraska to educate and innovate to compete. LB 1079 is currently under… Read more →

Nebraskans Increasingly Experiencing Food Hardship

Nearly one in five Americans and one in seven Nebraskans had difficulty affording food in the last year according to a report, “Food Hardship in America 2011,” released by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). “It’s concerning that food hardship continues to increase in our state, as does participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Free and… Read more →

A Win-Win for Business Growth and Work Experience

Nebraskans have a strong work ethic, and our labor force is one of our most important economic strengths. Nebraska businesses, especially small businesses, rely on our workers to help create economic growth and success. LB 1136 would utilize existing funds to provide employers opportunities to bring on additional employees with time-limited wage subsidies to help their businesses grow. It would… Read more →

Addressing the Skills Gap and Building Our Future Workforce

We fully support LB 1079 and believe it will both build opportunity and effectively leverage resources for positive impact. Improving the education and skills of our current workers is essential to our future workforce competitiveness. Nebraska faces a skills gap in the future and working families are a part of the solution. [DDET LB 1079 Testimony] My name is Kate… Read more →

Help Children Access the Food They Need to Learn & Grow

LB 1090 will help children access the food they need in the summertime to learn and grow.  Providing access to healthy, nutritious foods is important for children’s health.  The Summer Food Service Program provides federally funded meals to sites at nonprofit organizations, schools, and other locations to reach hungry children in the summer when free and reduced price meals are… Read more →

It’s That Time of Year…

The holidays are a time of year when our thoughts turn to people who are struggling in our communities.  It’s a time of year when we are not only thinking of the needs of our friends and neighbors, but also of the reasons behind their difficulties, and hoping for a year ahead with new possibilities and opportunities for family success.… Read more →

Huskers Fighting Hunger

Confronting Food Insecurity in Our Communities Keynote Speaker: Dr. Mariana Chilton, Center for Hunger-Free Communities FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC, STUDENTS, STAFF AND FACULTY November 16, 2011 5 PM—7:30 PM Henzlik Hall, Room 124, University of Nebraska-Lincoln city campus Millions of Americans experience hunger and food insecurity on a daily basis. Hunger has long-term impacts on child and human… Read more →

Step Up for Kids

Do the new census figures reflecting that one child in five in Nebraska struggles with poverty worry you? Have you followed recent child welfare system developments with concern? Do you think that access to prenatal care should be available to all who need it to protect the health of mothers and babies? The newspaper headlines in our state have been… Read more →

Five Facts You Should Know about the U.S. Census Bureau Poverty Data

Last week, the U.S. Census Bureau released new data about the economic well-being of our nation and our state.  Here are five facts you should know about poverty in Nebraska: More than one in five children (18.2%) in Nebraska experienced poverty in 2010.  This is 3% higher than 2009. Minorities in Nebraska experience poverty at a disproportionate rate compared to… Read more →

It’s a SNAP

Have you ever wondered about whether or not you or your clients qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps)? Is your organization a Community Based Partner for ACCESS Nebraska, the new on-line public benefits application, and you are looking for tools and resources? If so, Nebraska Appleseed’s new Guide to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Outreach in… Read more →

More Diplomas

I remember the feeling of satisfaction I had when I hammered a nail into the wall of my first “real” office and hung up my diploma – a feeling of satisfaction and pride. A feeling that my hard work had finally materialized into something concrete that I could hang on a wall. Across the state, hardworking Nebraska families have that… Read more →

Green Lights

At the capitol, in the legislative chamber, there is a large sign listing each Senator’s name. When a Senator votes in favor of a bill, a light next to their name turns bright green. Yesterday, those lights turned green in overwhelming favor of LB 543, legislation to address hunger in our state. The bill passed the second round vote and… Read more →

Smart Choices, Silver Linings

In good times and in bad, families and communities remain priorities for Nebraska.  The economic downturn has had an impact on state budgets and on family budgets, and our state leaders are facing difficult choices in the 2011 legislative session. In spite of this challenge, several bills that are positive for families are gaining momentum.  These bills help our government… Read more →

Opportunity: Points of View

A small business of her own. A chance to coach sports. A college degree. These are just a few of the American Dreams of Nebraskans profiled in “Opportunity: Points of View” a new photography exhibit supported by Nebraska Appleseed. The exhibit reflects the stories of hardworking Nebraskans who have overcome life obstacles, ranging from a young Mom in Ogallala to… Read more →

What it Really Means to “Make Ends Meet” in Nebraska

$16.39 per hour. That’s what it takes to “make ends meet” for a single parent with a preschooler in Omaha. It’s $15.38 in Lincoln, and $11.66 in Scottsbluff. These numbers are just a few examples of the wages needed by families in Nebraska based on the newly released “Self-Sufficiency Standard for Nebraska 2010” released by Nebraska Appleseed. “The Self-Sufficiency Standard… Read more →

A Win for Kids

This week, the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 was signed into law.  The bill is a win for children’s health and well-being in Nebraska and nationwide. Watching the bill become a law in a signing ceremony that was (appropriately) held at Harriet Tubman Elementary School, I was proud of the work that Nebraskans and Nebraska Appleseed did to… Read more →

Jobs Jobs Jobs

Jobs: they’re what’s on everyone’s mind as we work to build economic recovery.  What job opportunities are available in Nebraska?  What jobs are “good jobs”?  What jobs have growth potential?  What jobs pay wages that support families? Our “Nebraska Appleseed’s Top Jobs for Families in 2010: Jobs that Contribute to Economic Recovery and Family Success“ report is intended to contribute… Read more →

Filling the Skills Gap in Nebraska

In 44% of low-income Nebraska families, neither parent has any post-secondary education. In 2018, 66% of jobs in Nebraska will require post-secondary education. There is a skills gap in our state: too many folks lack high school and post-secondary credentials, and too many jobs require them.  This is a problem for workers now, and for our overall economy in the… Read more →

Smart Choices in Hard Times

Best practices for addressing state budget shortfalls have been identified by a group of ten nonprofit organizations today in a report entitled “Smart Choices in Hard Times: Best Practices for State Budgets.” “When budgets are tight, families are counting on smart budget choices that protect what matters most.  We have to look at the budget as a whole so that… Read more →

A New Month, A Small Reminder

It’s a new month: October. Fall is officially here bringing with it crisp cool weather and Halloween. But for many Nebraska families, the turn of the calendar page means much more. Public benefits programs, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps) and Aid to Dependent Children (cash welfare) “kick in” at midnight on the first day of… Read more →

Nebraska Poverty Rates Better than Nation but Nebraska Families with Children Still Struggle

In spite of poverty rates that show Nebraska faring better than the rest of the nation, data show thousands more Nebraskans are low-income, according to a report released by the U.S. Census Bureau, “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2009“. One in ten Nebraskans (9.9%) faced poverty in 2009. This is equal to the rate of… Read more →

Hunger Action Month

September is Hunger Action Month and the momentum is building to address childhood hunger in Nebraska and Nationwide. Our vision of assuring that all kids have the food they need to grow, learn, and succeed is within reach. As a nation, we are turning our eyes towards the goal of ending childhood hunger by 2015.  As a state, we are… Read more →

An Urgent Conversation: The 2010 Building Nebraska’s Future Workforce Forum

Nebraska is at a crossroads. The choices we make today about building and supporting our workforce will impact quality of life in our state for years to come. According to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, Nebraska ranks 7th in the nation for future need for workers with post-secondary education, yet only 36% of our workers have… Read more →

Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation

Ahh, summertime.  For me, summertime in Nebraska brings back memories of swimming lessons, playing with kittens, and eating picnics of sandwiches, peaches and popsicles on our front porch.  Unfortunately, for too many kids in Nebraska, summertime is a time of hunger, rather than one of carefree days and picnic meals. According to a new report, “Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation:… Read more →

Smart Choices in Hard Times

Nebraska’s budget should reflect Nebraska’s priorities. This seems like a simple statement, but really, it says quite a lot. It says that Nebraska values of family and community should drive our budget choices, it says that our shared resources should be directed at strengthening our families and workers, and it says that we should invest in opportunities that allow people… Read more →

Prenatal Care: The Conversation Continues

In March the Governor and the Department of Health and Human Services decided to stop a decades old policy of providing prenatal care to all low-income women and over 1,600 women and unborn children lost access to prenatal care. A simple administrative fix is still available to remedy this change and Appleseed and others will continue to push for a… Read more →

Moving the World Along

“I long to accomplish great and noble tasks, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as if they were great and noble. The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker.” – Helen Keller This quotation has hung on… Read more →

Our Friends and Neighbors

What does the economic downturn and emerging recovery mean to Nebraskans? Specifically, what does it mean to our friends and neighbors, the folks we sit next to at church or PTA meetings at the high school track meet? Over the past few years, we’ve heard multiple answers to those questions. We hear that times are getting better and that times… Read more →

Common Ground

I’ve been fortunate this week to participate in meetings with Jay Connor, Executive Director of the Collaboratory for Community Support. This organization is dedicated to helping communities break down silos and work together towards positive outcomes. He uses a quotation from movie director Frances Ford Coppola to discuss the need for collaboration in community initiatives. When asked what the difference… Read more →

Time to Take the Nebraska Education & Welfare Model Nationwide

Education is one of the clearest pathways out of poverty. Nebraska Appleseed has been repeating this statement nearly since our inception, and our work has paid off:  Nebraska welfare recipients are able to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree full time, and recently, our state expanded the time frame that recipients can pursue an Associate’s Degree from 12 months to 36 months.… Read more →

The Right Choice for Nebraska Workers

Nebraska Appleseed has been a long time advocate for working families.  In particular, we are supportive of programs that are responsive to family needs in difficult economic times.  Unemployment Insurance is one such program, and last week Nebraska’s State Senators gave first round approval to a bill (LB 1020) that would make it even stronger. Unemployment Insurance is paid into… Read more →

Making the Grade on Child Nutrition

I am blogging today from Washington, D.C.   I am attending the Food Research and Action Center’s Annual Anti-Hunger Policy conference and visiting our federal delegation. There is a real movement here surrounding President Obama’s goal of ending childhood hunger by 2015. This would mean that by the time our current class of sixth grade students graduates from High School child… Read more →

A Bumpy Ride

Increasingly, the economic downturn is leading Americans, and Nebraskans, to access public benefits programs such as Child Care Assistance and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  In fact, the New York Times ran a recent story about “the new poor” entitled “Millions of Unemployed Face Years without Jobs”.  The story chronicles the experiences of folks who never imagined they would… Read more →

Changing the Odds

Last week, we launched our Economic Opportunity Campaign, which is a values based policy agenda to build opportunity in the state.   The Campaign puts forth a vision where programs and policies change the odds for working Nebraskans. The vision includes job training, adult education, child care assistance, and access to health care. In that spirit, we are celebrating five fantastic… Read more →

Equal ACCESS

Nebraska Appleseed has used the tag line “Core Values, Common Ground, Equal Justice” for a long time.  We look to these central principles in a variety of ways about a variety of issues. Last Thursday, our own Becky Gould testified regarding ACCESS Nebraska – our state’s on-line application system for public benefits programs.  And, in many ways, the Nebraska Appleseed… Read more →

Hunger Headlines

For many of us, the holidays bring great feasts – traditions ranging from turkey and gravy to oyster stew to Mom’s infamous Christmas cookies. For many of us, they also make our thoughts turn to those who are not able to celebrate the holidays in the same way.  In the weeks surrounding the holidays, hunger has made local, state, and… Read more →

2,100 People

Think for a minute:  Who do you know that lost a job in 2009?   Chances are that you can think of someone.  I can think of many: The wife of an old friend, a caller to Nebraska Appleseed’s Intake line, a parent I know at a local school…Job loss has been difficult for many families this year.  Nebraska has a… Read more →

National Summit on Jobs and Economic Growth: An Ongoing National Conversation

This Thursday, December 3, the Obama Administration will hold a Summit on Jobs and Economic growth. The summit will bring together business leaders and financial experts to talk about ideas for expanding the economy and creating jobs. This is an important step in moving forward the national conversation about jobs. Across the nation, this is the worst economic crisis since… Read more →

Kitchen Tables

I love Thanksgiving.  My Dad (my favorite farmer) cooks for us, and this year, I have not one but two beautiful nieces to giggle with at the table.  This is what valuing family means to me.  I am grateful for a good meal, for family, and even for the baby drool and stuffing that will inevitably end up on my… Read more →

Learning (Aprendizaje)

Last week, I was lucky enough to sit in on an adult education class in a small Nebraska community. The first assignment was to write a simple letter to a friend. Many of the students were attending the class in order to learn English. In an attempt to see what the class might be like for the students, I took… Read more →

6 Tips for Nonprofit Advocacy

Did you know that in issuing regulations on lobbying, the Internal Revenue Service has stated that public charities “may lobby freely” so long as lobbying is within specified limits? Last week, I had the pleasure of sharing that message at the Nonprofit Association of the Midlands (NAM) Annual Summit http://www.nonprofitam.org/ The Summit was a great event, with fantastic attendance and… Read more →

The Floor Is Yours

Last week I attended a town hall meeting hosted by the State Senators representing Lincoln and Lancaster County about the current budget shortfall and the upcoming special session of the State Legislature to address the gap. I was genuinely touched by the number of Nebraskans speaking out on behalf of low income families.  Person after person stood up to speak… Read more →

How Can Nebraska Come Out Ahead In The Economic Recovery?

Brain drain, a high proportion of low-wage jobs, and the current economic downturn all negatively impact the well-being of Nebraska’s families, communities, and economy. At the same time, our workforce is one of the most dedicated in the nation and, in spite of recent increases, our unemployment rate is one of the lowest in the nation. So what do we… Read more →

Ending Childhood Hunger in Nebraska

September is Hunger Awareness Month. As a part of this nationwide effort to draw attention to the issue of hunger in America, Nebraska Appleseed is releasing a report tomorrow entitled “Ending Childhood Hunger in Nebraska: Strategies for Improving and Maximizing Child Nutrition Programs.” The report shares the unsettling finding that one in seven children in Nebraska is food insecure, meaning… Read more →

The Good News

In these times of economic struggle, it’s tempting to focus only on the difficulties facing our state and our families. While the Low Income Self Sufficiency Program will continue to address issues ranging from unemployment to increased poverty rates, this week, we’re taking a hiatus from the problematic to bring you some good news. And, in fact, there’s plenty of… Read more →

More than Numbers

One in ten Nebraskans currently lives in poverty according to new Census data released last week. One in ten…One in ten folks driving down I-80 on your commute to work this morning…One in ten parents at your PTA meeting…One in ten people attending your church service on Sunday… The truth is that the recession is taking a toll on our… Read more →

The “Good Life Index”

What is “The Good Life”? We Nebraskans love to talk about it, but I don’t often hear people define it. Think about it for a minute – what does “The Good Life” mean to you? This term means different things to different people, but generally, it refers to a high quality of life that involves healthy people, safe communities, and… Read more →

Back to School Breakfast

Today many children across the state don new backpacks, sharpen their pencils, and begin the giddy walk to the first day of school.  Thinking about the first day of a new school year always makes me remember the nervous feeling I would have in my stomach on the first day, accompanied by a series of questions running through my mind:… Read more →

“Know Your Rights” Video Premier!

[kaltura-widget wid=”o1s82qbvqo” width=”400″ height=”365″ style=”margin-left: 0px; margin-right: 5px;” addpermission=”” editpermission=”” align=”right” /]Recently, I attended a great event entitled “Tools for Education” at an organization that is doing excellent work in Nebraska, the Center for People in Need. In addition to sharing backpacks and notebooks to prepare kids for the upcoming school year, the Center for People in Need gave folks… Read more →

Valuing Work, Valuing Workers

In recent months, the economic downturn has strengthened the value that Nebraskans place on a hard day’s work.  Now, more than ever, we recognize and appreciate the opportunity to earn a living to support our families.  This is, in part, why we can celebrate the recent minimum wage increase from $6.55 to $7.25 which will provide a much-needed boost for… Read more →

“The arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice.” MLK Jr.

In the next few months, it will be my job to tell people about a recent Nebraska Appleseed “win.”  This year, Nebraska Appleseed, along with Senator Harms from Scottsbluff and numerous advocates and supporters, worked to pass LB 458, legislation that allows families that participate in the Aid to Dependent Children (ADC) program to pursue an education for 36 months.… Read more →

Hidden Heartache in Nebraska’s Unemployment Numbers

Nebraska newspapers recently reported that our state has the lowest unemployment rate in the nation at 4.4%. Certainly, this is a positive sign for Nebraska’s economy – and it’s good that we are not seeing the record breaking unemployment rates of over 10% in Nevada, Oregon, Michigan, and California. However, in our role as an advocates for low-income Nebraskans, it’s… Read more →

Being the Change

What does a good public assistance program look like? From the Appleseed point of view, basic principles would apply:  Folks would have all the information they need to make good decisions, clients would have opportunities for choice and self-determination, and all people would be treated with dignity and respect. Our legal and public policy reform efforts continually work to create this vision… Read more →

I Left My Heart in Scottsbluff County

Visionary.  Strategic.  Innovative.  These are a few of the words I would use to describe the folks that attended our Town Hall meeting in Scottsbluff, Nebraska http://www.wehavejobs.net/ last week.  Scottsbluff may be considered a small community by some, but the leaders I spoke with had big ideas for their community and for the state. The meeting addressed three major issues:… Read more →

Multiple Choice

One in ten Nebraska adults does not have a High School Diploma or General Equivalency Diploma (GED). Startling, isn’t it? In our evolving, knowledge-based, technology-driving economy, the lack of basic skills is a real barrier – not only for workers in need of jobs that pay family supporting wages, but also for employers in need of skilled workers. In spite… Read more →

What’s for dinner?

This apparently simple question is deceptively complicated. Families everywhere grapple with “the dinner question” on a daily basis. What’s in the fridge? When is Mom getting home from work? Can the vegetable hating seven-year-old be convinced to eat something with tomato sauce? And, increasingly, is there enough money in the checking account to stop at the store? Dinner. In a… Read more →

Who is your “One in Four”?

The next time you are at a t-ball game, or a parade, or at the local pool, take a good look around. One in four working families in Nebraska is low-income, meaning that they have difficulty meeting their basic needs and struggle to get ahead. Maybe it’s the high school janitor, whose kid plays third base. Maybe it’s your neighbor,… Read more →