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Advocates bring fresh food options to ignored neighborhood

Advocates bring fresh food options to ignored neighborhood

The nearest supermarket is more than a half-mile away for many in Albany’s South EndBy MICHAEL HILL Associated PressJuly 12, 2021, 1:22 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleALBANY, N.Y. — Residents of Albany’s South End can grab fresh milk from sidewalk refrigerators, buy low-cost bananas from the Veggie Mobile or fry up fresh eggs hatched in a local coop.Getting the same fresh food from a supermarket is more difficult.The nearest supermarket is more than a half-mile away for many in this modest neighborhood. The sidewalk fridges, food trucks and other programs fill in gaps, especially for residents with low incomes or without cars. In an area shunned by chain supermarkets, advocates have tried other creative ways to make fresh food more accessible.“Food insecurity is so bad in some of the more marginalized communities that we have to literally put a refrigerator outside on the street,” said Jammella Anderson, who started Free Food Fridge Albany last summer. She called the refrigerators a “Band-Aid” solution to the larger problem of a lack of resources in some communities.Albany’s South End is a neighborhood full of brick and clapboard homes in this city of 96,000 and it stretches across areas with a majority Black population.Dollar stores and convenience shops sell packaged foods. But people seeking a large selection of affordable produce typically face long walks or a bus trip. There’s a supermarket near the border of the neighborhood more than a mile away from many residents. Buses run to two more supermarkets about 3 miles (5 kilometers) away in suburban Glenmont.“They don’t have stores in the South End that carry meat,” Yvette Jordan said after a bus trip to a suburban Walmart to buy fresh salmon for her family. “I have to go all the way down to Glenmont to buy groceries.”The South End is sometimes called a “food desert” due to its limited access to affordable and nutritious food. Anderson and other activists use the term “food apartheid” because it points to systemic issues behind limited fresh food access, like discriminatory housing practices.With grocery stores far away, advocates focus on bringing fresh groceries to the people.Billed by the non-profit Capital Roots as a “produce aisle on wheels,” the Veggie Mobile started making stops in the capital region in 2006, later adding a second, smaller “sprout” truck. The non-profit sells produce at cost and accepts government benefit program payments. The mobile markets complement community gardens and other fresh food programs organized by the group.“I think it’s naïve to think anyone or anything could be a one-stop solution,” said Capital Roots CEO Amy Klein. “What we as an organization try to do is give people many doors to walk through.”Anderson’s organization pitches in with brightly painted refrigerators on the sidewalks in Albany and nearby Troy reading “Free Food” and “Comida Gratis.” Stocking a red fridge on a residential street recently with lettuce, asparagus, bananas and cheese, she said the goal is to provide the freshest, healthiest food possible.Fresh food is also available from the Radix Center, where tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, chard and more grow on a green patch of land that used to be a vacant lot. The ecological sustainability center keeps chickens for eggs, too. They sell their fresh food at a weekly farmers market next door and offer the local food through a farm share program.Radix sells farm shares for as little as $10 a week and plans to offer additional free shares for a second straight year if funding comes through.“It’s a blessing,” said Willie Collins, who lives in an apartment tower across the street from the center. “I get eggs from here from Radix and prepared meals from different organizations that donate to the refrigerator.”None of the complementary programs can entirely make up for the lack of a full-service grocery store — though advocates hope to finally fill that gap later this year.Advocates recently announced plans to buy an empty building built as a McDonald’s on the edge of the neighborhood and convert it into “The South End Grocery” under a public-private partnership.A space where burger and fries were served would offer fresh produce from local farms, meat and other nutritious food, said Travon Jackson of the non-profit BlueLight Development Group.He hopes the boarded-up drive-through window could be used for hot meals. And the walk to get a fresh tomato could be a lot shorter for many South End residents.“It’s hard to quantify just how much benefit there is in walking from your front steps to your grocery,” he said.

'It lessens my bills': $500 payments tested in upstate NY

'It lessens my bills': $500 payments tested in upstate NY

Annette Steele isn’t destitute or unemployed. But for a year she’ll be receiving $500 per month in no-strings-attached payments as part of an experimental universal basic income program in upstate New York.Places from Compton, California, to Richmond, Virginia, are trying out guaranteed income programs, which gained more attention after the pandemic idled millions of workers.Steele, a special education school aide, is getting her payments through a program in Ulster County, which covers parts of the Catskill Mountains and the Hudson River Valley.During the pilot program, funded by private donations, 100 county residents making less than $46,900 annually will get $500 a month for a year. The income threshold was based on 80% of the county’s average median income, meaning it includes both the poor and a slice of the middle class — people who face financial stress but might not ordinarily qualify for government aid based on income.For researchers, the pilot could give them a fuller picture of what happens when a range of people are sent payments that guarantee a basic living.For Steele, 57, it’s a welcome financial boost that helped her pay for car insurance and groceries.“It lessens my bills,” said Steele, who lives in the village of Ellenville with her retired husband. “People think because you’ve been working so many years, that you make this tremendous amount of money. But no, actually.”Less than 100 miles (160 kilometers) north of New York City, Ulster County is a popular destination for weekenders headed to Woodstock or the Catskill Mountains. Its big city, Kingston, is small, with 23,000 people.Basic income programs elsewhere tend to focus on cities. In contrast, this upstate program stretches out over a mix of places: a city, small towns and remote areas many miles from bus lines and supermarkets.“Showing that this approach will work not just in urban areas, but for rural parts of the country — which we know is one of our big national problems — I think there’s great opportunity there,” said Ulster County Executive Patrick Ryan.Ryan saw cash payments as a way to help local families struggling to get ahead, or even get by, as the pandemic ebbs. Many people in the county were already stretched thin by housing costs before the pandemic, when a large influx of New York City residents led to skyrocketing real estate prices, he said.The first payments were made in mid-May. Recipients of the money can spend it as they wish, but will be asked to participate in periodic surveys about their physical health, mental health and employment status.The Center for Guaranteed Income Research at the University of Pennsylvania, which the school formed with the Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, is evaluating the pilot program.Recipient Eric Luna, a 26-year-old electrical lab technician, said the money will help pay the bills at the home he recently helped his parents buy in Wallkill. But he also hopes to set some aside, possibly for a master’s degree.“I’m also learning how to save money as well,” he said. “So this will be a learning experience.”There were more than 4,200 applicants for the program in a county of 178,000 people. Center for Guaranteed Income Research co-founder Stacia West, who is evaluating more than 20 such pilot programs, is interested in seeing how spending compares to cities like Stockton, California, where more that a third went for food.“Knowing what we know about barriers to employment, especially in rural areas, we may see more money going toward transportation than we’ve ever seen before in any other experiment,” said West, also a professor at the University of Tennessee College of Social Work. “But it remains to be seen.”Proponents of guaranteed incomes say recipients can decide how to spend the money best — be it food, job searches or to replace a refrigerator. The money can complement the existing social safety net, they say, or can be used as an emergency response when the economy starts tanking.The end goal for a number of advocates is a universal basic income, or UBI, which would distribute cash payment programs for all adults.The UBI idea helped fuel a stronger-than-expected Democratic presidential primary run last year by Andrew Yang, who proposed $1,000 a month for every American adult.Yang, who has a second home in Ulster County, is now running for New York City mayor with a basic income proposal to help lower-income residents.Officials say Yang hasn’t been involved in Ulster’s program, but that the nonprofit he founded, Humanity Forward, was helpful in sharing experiences on starting a UBI pilot.Critics of cash transfer programs worry about their effectiveness and cost compared to aid programs that target funds for food, shelter or for help raising children.Drake University economics professor Heath Henderson is concerned the programs miss needier people less likely to apply, including those without homes.While there are times people might benefit from a cash infusion, the money is unlikely to address the structural issues holding people back, like inadequate health care and schools, he said.“If we keep thinking about remedying poverty in terms of just throwing cash at people, you’re not thinking about the structures that kind of reproduce poverty in the first place and you’re not really solving the problem at all,” Henderson said.

AP wins 2 Pulitzers for photos of pandemic pain, US unrest

AP wins 2 Pulitzers for photos of pandemic pain, US unrest

The Associated Press has swept the Pulitzer Prizes for photographyBy MICHAEL HILL Associated PressJune 12, 2021, 12:29 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleAssociated Press photographers awarded the Pulitzer Prize on Friday had dodged tear gas to capture protests against racial injustice and patiently built trust with elderly people to empathetically document the toll of the coronavirus pandemic.AP’s chief photographer in Spain, Emilio Morenatti, won the feature photography prize. Work by 10 AP photographers won the breaking news prize.“The outstanding work of the AP photography staff in covering racial justice protests and Emilio Morenatti’s compassionate, yearlong look at the impact of COVID-19 on the elderly in Spain are two shining examples of what photojournalists strive to do everywhere: use light and shadow to bring knowledge and understanding to all corners of the globe,” said J. David Ake, AP assistant managing editor and director of photography.Traveling by scooter around Barcelona, Morenatti captured images of an older couple hugging and kissing through a plastic sheet, mortuary workers in hazmat gear removing bodies and of people enduring the crisis in isolation.Morenatti separated himself from his family for months to avoid the risk of exposure as he documented the toll of COVID-19 on the elderly. He credited half the award to his wife, who took care of their children, and the other half to his colleagues.“I never thought that I could win the Pulitzer, actually, but much less than I could win at using my electric scooter around a few dozen kilometers from my house in Barcelona,” he said.Morenatti is a veteran photographer with wide experience in war zones. He was embedded with the U.S. military in southern Afghanistan in August 2009 when the vehicle he was in was hit by a roadside bomb. His left leg was amputated below the knee.The AP photographers who won in the breaking news category captured the drama and raw emotion of protests that roiled U.S. cities after the May 2020 death of George Floyd, a Black man murdered by a Minneapolis police officer.AP photographers captured close-up images of demonstrators with fists in the air and sometimes violent conflicts with police. One widely published photograph by Julio Cortez on the night of May 28 in riot-torn Minneapolis shows a lone, silhouetted protester running with an upside-down American flag past a burning liquor store.The ten photographers who won the breaking news prize are freelancer Noah Berger, Alex Brandon, freelancer Ringo H.W. Chiu, Cortez, Frank Franklin II, David Goldman, John Minchillo, Marcio Sanchez, Mike Stewart and Evan Vucci.“It means the world to me to share this with my colleagues,” Minchillo said on Twitter. “I hoped for one Pulitzer in a lifetime of hustling and this is how I wanted it. With my people, on the big story.”The AP also had two Pulitzer finalists in the investigative reporting category and an additional finalist for breaking news photography.The AP’s two finalists in the investigative reporting category were for “Fruits of Labor,” a series by reporters Margie Mason and Robin McDowell that exposed widespread abuse in the lucrative palm oil industry, and for reporter Dake Kang and AP staff’s reporting on China’s early mishandling of the coronavirus and human rights violations against the Uyghurs.AP’s Hassan Ammar, Felipe Dana and Hussein Malla were finalists in the breaking news photography for images of the immediate aftermath of the port explosion that leveled part of Beirut.This is the second year in a row AP has won the Pulitzer for feature photography. AP last won both photography prizes in 1999.The news cooperative, which is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year, has won 56 Pulitzer Prizes, including 34 for photography.———Associated Press writers Deepti Hajela and Donna Edwards contributed to this report.

Pulitzers honor coronavirus pandemic, US protest coverage

Pulitzers honor coronavirus pandemic, US protest coverage

NEW YORK — The Associated Press won two Pulitzer Prizes in photography Friday for its coverage of the racial injustice protests and the coronavirus’s terrible toll on the elderly, while The New York Times received the public service award for its detailed, data-filled reporting on the pandemic.In a year dominated by COVID-19 and furious debate over race and policing, the Star Tribune of Minneapolis won the breaking news reporting prize for its coverage of George Floyd’s murder and its aftermath, while Darnella Frazier — the teenager who recorded the killing on a cellphone — received a special citation.Frazier’s award was intended to highlight “the crucial role of citizens in journalists’ quest for truth and justice,” the Pulitzer Board said.The AP and The New York Times each won two Pulitzers, the most prestigious prize in journalism, first awarded in 1917.The feature photography prize went to AP’s chief photographer in Spain, Emilio Morenatti, who captured haunting images of an older couple embracing through a plastic sheet, mortuary workers in hazmat gear removing bodies, and people enduring the crisis in isolation.The breaking news photography prize was shared by 10 AP photographers for their coverage of the protests set off by Floyd’s killing. One widely published photograph by Julio Cortez on the night of May 28 in riot-torn Minneapolis showed a lone, silhouetted protester running with an upside-down American flag past a burning liquor store.“Everybody, not just myself, has given up something to go cover this stuff,” Cortez said. “To be an illegal immigrant kid who now has a piece of the AP history is just insane. I’m just super proud of everyone’s work.”AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt said the two prizes are a “true testament to the talent and dedication of AP photojournalists.” He added: “These photographers told the stories of the year through remarkable and unforgettable images that resonated around the world.”The New York Times received its public service prize for pandemic coverage that the judges said was “courageous, prescient and sweeping” and “filled a data vacuum” that helped better prepare the public. Wesley Morris of the Times won for criticism, for his writing on the intersection of race and culture.Similarly, the prize for commentary went to Michael Paul Williams of the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia for a series of columns on dismantling Confederate monuments in Richmond following Floyd’s death.And Star Tribune journalists were honored for covering the rage in Minneapolis, where protesters burned buildings, including a police station, in the wake of Floyd’s death. The Black man died after a white Minneapolis police officer pinned him to the ground with his knee on Floyd’s neck for up to 9 1/2 minutes. The officer was later convicted of murder.“Our staff poured its heart and soul into covering this story. It has been such a traumatic and tragic time for our community,” Star Tribune Editor Rene Sanchez said in a statement. “We felt that our journalism had to capture the full truth and depth of this pain and the many questions it renewed about Minnesota and the country.”Prizes for explanatory reporting went to two recipients. Ed Yong of The Atlantic won for a series of deeply reported articles about the pandemic. Andrew Chung, Lawrence Hurley, Andrea Januta, Jaimi Dowdell and Jackie Botts of Reuters were honored for a look at the legal concept of qualified immunity and how it shields police from prosecution.Two prizes for feature writing were also awarded. Nadja Drost won for her freelance piece on global migration in The California Sunday Magazine, which suspended publication late last year. And freelance contributor Mitchell S. Jackson won for an account in Runner’s World on the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man who was chased down and shot while jogging in Georgia.The national reporting prize went to the staffs of The Marshall Project, AL.com, IndyStar and the Invisible Institute for an investigation into attacks on people by police K-9 units around the country.BuzzFeed News won its first Pulitzer, in international reporting, for a series by Megha Rajagopalan, Alison Killing and Christo Buschek on the infrastructure built by the Chinese government for the mass detention of Muslims.Also, BuzzFeed News and the International Consortium of Journalists were finalists in that category for an expose on the global banking industry’s role in money laundering. A former U.S. Treasury Department employee was sentenced to six months in prison this month for leaking the trove of confidential financial reports that served as the basis for the series.Matt Rocheleau, Vernal Coleman, Laura Crimaldi, Evan Allen and Brendan McCarthy of The Boston Globe received the investigative reporting Pulitzer for a series demonstrating the systematic failure by state governments to share information about dangerous truck drivers.McCarthy, the editor on the series, said the Globe “quickly found that this kind of tragedy had been happening year after year for decades. The problems were in plain sight but had never been addressed.”The winner of the public service Pulitzer is honored with a gold medal. The awards in the other categories carry a prize of $15,000 each. The prizes are administered by Columbia University.———Associated Press writers Deepti Hajela, Donna Edwards and Sarah Rankin contributed to this report.