by Leah Tully
For many families in Connecticut, the close of August marks the end of summer and the beginning of a new school year. For the parents of school-aged children, returning to the classroom requires a long list of extras. School supplies need to be inventoried, forms need to be filled out, and a significant amount of time is spent ensuring that our children are prepared for the school year ahead.
Depending on your child’s tastes, and your local lunch menu, your child may purchase their lunch in the school cafeteria, or pack it and bring it from home. Either way, it’s important to make sure children have enough to eat during the day to fuel them both physically and mentally through their busy school day. For those families that need assistance gaining access to healthy food, both inside and outside of the cafeteria, there is help available.
According to the most recent report from the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), over 157,000 Connecticut students participated in the Free and Reduced Lunch program in the 2011-2012 school year. That’s more than half of all the Connecticut students who bought lunch that year. Did you know that Connecticut families who qualify to receive Free and Reduced Lunch may also qualify to receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP – formerly known as Food Stamps)? The most recent data available from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports that in 2013, SNAP helped 425,000, or 1 in 8 (12%) people in Connecticut purchase food. Of those receiving benefits, nearly 62% were in families with children.
Does your family qualify to receive SNAP benefits? SNAP Outreach Workers at Connecticut’s Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) can help you find out if you qualify and help you apply. You can find more information about how to contact your local SNAP Outreach Worker in your student’s Back to School mailing packet. Or, by visiting the SNAP section of our website!
Leah Tully is CHCACT’s SNAP Program Coordinator.
Celebrating Larry Cross
By Evelyn Barnum, JD, CEO, CHCACT
From seed to blossom…and to fruit.
The atmosphere was celebratory May 16, 2014 at the farewell festivities to honor Larry Cross’s service to the Norwalk community during his decade as CEO of the Norwalk Community Health Center. The success of Larry’s tenure as CEO can be measured by the doubling of patients and visits, the new services added (Ryan White funding for HIV/AIDS care, a new mobile van that travels to homeless shelters and public housing sites, dental services) or the beautiful and spacious new health center site at 125 Connecticut Avenue. Larry Cross brought a tiny and struggling health center into the spotlight. And literally into the HRSA Spotlight (http://bphc.hrsa.gov/spotlight/norwalkquality/index.html) by cutting costs and improving care.
But Larry’s most important accomplishment was to bring talented staff and community partners together around their commitment to NCHC’s patients. The deep affection of the NCHC staff and community for the departing CEO was palpable. There was clearly unanimous agreement that the best way to thank Larry Cross was to build on his legacy and continue to assure that NCHC is “great—not just good” .
John Gettings, NCHC CFO and now interim CEO, recited the poem by Dawna Markova that captures Larry Cross’s passion for making community health happen.
“I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance,
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom,
and that which came to me as blossom, goes on as fruit.”
―, I Will Not Die an Unlived Life: Reclaiming Purpose and Passion
There wasn’t anyone present who doesn’t hope Larry has a long and adventure-filled retirement but he will be dearly missed.
Serving at Mission of Mercy
By Kylie O’Donnell
This past weekend April 25th and 26th the AmeriCorps Community HealthCorps members participated at the seventh annual CT Mission of Mercy, fondly referred to as CT MOM. The Mission of Mercy provides free dental care to anyone and everyone who walks through their doors. People line up the night before with anticipation and anxiety to receive free dental services – some of which they have been putting off for years for a variety of reasons, no insurance and an inability to afford treatment being some of the biggest barriers to dental care. CT MOM has been striving to meet that need and has only grown as the years have gone on. This year it provided $1,569,772 worth of dental care, which translates to 2,295 patient encounters. With so many patients and volunteers you could easily imagine a mad house of activity, but even with so much hustle and bustle the dental clinic ran swiftly and smoothly due to the tireless efforts of the event’s organizers, numerous volunteers and generous donors.
The Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) table was located on the way out of the dental clinic, which allowed us to distribute information about primary care health centers all over the state. These FQHCs could assist the patients with applying for insurance, SNAP and getting the word out that no one is refused care based on ability to pay. One woman in particular is going to stick with me for the rest of my life. As she came up the stairs she had tears in her eyes as she approached the table a huge grin spread across her face. “I can smile again” she proudly proclaimed and beamed a huge grin at us. She had been waiting all year for the dental mission to come so she could get her front teeth back. We cheered her on as she went up the stairs and back to her life a little better for the dedication and generosity of the CT MOM mission.
Kylie O’Donnell is a Community HealthCorps member serving at Community Health Services in Hartford.