May 17 – The Busy Bees at South Shores Elementary held their end of the year cook out that showcased the skills of both the Bakers and the Grillers.
This program was started by Sara Kennedy, a South Shores 6th Grade teacher, and Jeanene Edrington, a South Shores English teacher. The Bees started out as a baking class that met after school and taught young ladies the math and science involved with baking, but now it has expanded into a grilling class for young men and a sewing club as well. All of the students are taught by local volunteers who act as mentors for them.
Kennedy said the group is about teaching life skills. “To be in school and learn reading and writing is one thing, but to take away a life skill that you can use every day and at every meal and everywhere you go, even if it’s over a campfire, you cook. So it’s a skill that they can use forever.” She continued saying some of the students are the only ones in their family who know how to cook and they pass on their knowledge.
This club not only helps students learn a new skill, but gain confidence as well. Katie Hawley’s daughter Kamie Hoffman has been involved with the group since last semester and has seen Hoffman grow. “It’s has her more motivated to cook at home. I know she has stepped out of her boundaries. We were making pancakes the other day and she was mixing cookie dough into the pancakes. She is more confident in the kitchen when it comes to cooking and doing things on her own.” Hoffman said she has enjoyed spending time with her Bee friends and learning how to make things like Lazy Day Cookies.
The club will take on a new class of Bees next year, but this time they will also have a food pantry for their students according to Kennedy. “Because we have a high poverty rate here at South Shores, we want to make sure our students have food. So we are going to incorporate the Busy Bees by putting in recipes into the food baskets so when our Bees – or students who are not Bees – go home, they can cook with their families.” In addition to the pantry, Tate & Lyle will donate $1,500 so the Bees can purchase their cooking tools and ingredients.
The Busy Bees was made possible by the Decatur Public Schools Foundation. In addition to funding from the Foundation and Tate & Lyle, there have also been donations from local citizens.
May 17 – Congressman Rodney Davis held a Thursday press conference ahead of Friday’s vote on the 2018 Farm Bill.
Davis said it was interesting to reflect back on the 2014 Farm Bill he helped construct and how it compares to this year’s bill. “We put a very well-balanced public, private, risk management strategy together within that last farm bill. The end result was that even during a time of low farm income; we were not only able to save the taxpayers $23 million that was estimated to be saved in mandatory spending, but $112 million.” He continued to say Congress has taken the 2014 bill and “tweaked the edges” to accommodate the current growing economy.
The Congressman mentioned they are trying not to change too much in this year’s bill. “We don’t want to mess with the success of the last bill.” However, Davis said they do want to make reforms to the Food and Nutrition portion, which accounts for 80 percent of the bill. He said the economy has grown since the 2014 bill and Congress wants to see it continue by helping SNAP recipients receive job training. Davis mentioned employers like Caterpillar who are looking to hire hundreds of new employees but cannot get trained applicants. “If someone is on SNAP benefits, why can’t we help them go to Richland Community College and get trained to not only get a job, but a career. This may be the second chance career that some have been looking for.” He said the goal would be for students to keep their SNAP benefits while they are in school until they are financially able to provide for themselves and their families.
While Congress is looking to get people into a self-sufficient state and off of SNAP, Davis said they understand some may really need the benefits and want to make it accessible to those who need it. Davis will soon speak in support of the MacArthur Amendment that “strengthens the provisions in the bill that protect children by making it clear that if an adult becomes ineligible because of a failure to meet the work requirements, the other household members remain eligible to participate in SNAP,” according to Ashley Phelps, Communications Director for Davis.
In addition to helping SNAP beneficiaries receive the training they need to get higher paying jobs, Davis touched on farmers wanting the bill to stay the same for crop insurance. “So we took their advice. We tweaked around the edges a little bit and we made the organic certification program stronger. We want to make sure that research dollars are prioritized. I’ve got a fight ahead as this moves through the process.”
Congress is scheduled to vote on the 2018 Farm Bill on Friday.