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You may think you know what food insecurity looks like, but you haven't met this family.

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Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Jillian Hollingsworth paid a steep price to stay home while her children were young.

With no maternity leave plan at her job in South Carolina and the high cost of daycare, she had quit to stay home to take care of her babies. But, that job had provided health insurance for her whole family, so her husband, Wesley, found a new state government job that had health benefits. The only problem? It paid about half of what his previous job had, leaving them in a tough situation.

“Our financial situation just nose-dived,” says Hollingsworth.


“We were struggling. I mean, we had a mortgage, car payments, and student loans,” she continues.

But she knew the cost of daycare was too high (it would've sapped all the extra income she could have earned working) and she wanted to be there for her kids.

Photo via istock.

She wanted to be home with her children because she knew how important bonding with a parent can be for their development.

But after their second child was born, the couple learned they qualified for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

For more than 50 years, SNAP has offered nutrition assistance to millions of eligible, low-income families. It’s the largest national program to provide families support to put food on the table when they need  it most.  

Benefits used to come in the form of food stamps, but after 2004, recipients in all states could use an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card as part of this program. It looks just like a credit/debit card, which reduces fraud and provides more dignity and convenience to those it helps.

Jillian and Wesley were both college graduates, and had maintained regular employment, but they just couldn’t make ends meet after they had children.

Image via iStock.

“I don’t think anyone in our family has ever been on food assistance, but it’s not something we were ashamed of,” says Hollingsworth. “We were so thankful that program existed to help us.”

About 34% of South Carolina’s children received SNAP benefits in 2015, according to a 2017 report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Nationwide, in a typical month, SNAP helps feed 20 million children.

That’s one in four children in the United States.

SNAP is helping stabilize food-insecure households, which gives kids a better shot at a healthy, happy life. Food insecurity is about more than being hungry. Malnourishment can affect not only a child’s health, but school performance and behavior. That, in turn, can alter their chance at success later in life.

But, just by eating healthy, regular meals made possible by SNAP, kids are getting sick less often and doing better in school. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, SNAP participation can lead to gains in reading and math skills among elementary school children, especially young girls, and increase their chances of graduating from high school.

Image via iStock.

With help from SNAP, Hollingsworth could buy fresh, nutritious food for her children as she taught them to eat solid foods.

A bigger food budget meant better choices were available, not just $1 menu deals at fast-food joints, boxes of mac-n-cheese, and convenience-store grub.

Plus, many farmers markets now accept SNAP, making it even easier to get locally-sourced, fresh food. Between 2009 and 2015, the amount of SNAP dollars spent at farmers markets actually quadrupled, according to the Farmers Market Coalition.

And that's great news for families like Hollingsworth's.

It’s especially nice to have more options when you’re a family strapped for cash, she says, because that’s often not the case. You can feel pulled in all directions with limited resources to meet your family’s needs. ButSNAP provides low-income families with benefits to buy food which frees up additional income to pay bills. Hollingsworth appreciated that priority.

Today, Hollingsworth and her husband no longer need SNAP to feed their children.

After all, they never meant for it to be a long-term solution, but it was there to help them when they needed it most.

SNAP is designed to be temporary, requiring a renewal process every three or six months.

Image via iStock.

While receiving SNAP and taking care of her babies, Hollingsworth baby-sat for other children and studied to be a doula. And once her studies were complete, she was able to increase her earning potential. Those efforts, plus her husband’s work promotion, enabled them to get off SNAP within a year and a half.

However, they’re forever grateful for how SNAP helped her family.

“SNAP was very helpful while we had it. It’s built into society to help people just like us. People think if you’re on government programs, you’re living beyond your means or you’re lazy. But that’s not the case,” says Hollingsworth. “My husband was working every day. We were working towards being in a position so I could work and be with my kids, and we did that.”

Today, they have three healthy, happy children, and Hollingsworth attributes some of that to SNAP’s role in their early growth.

The needs of many families like theirs, considered the “working poor,” fall through the cracks. In fact, the U.S. Census Bureau counted 8.6 million working poor Americans in 2015 — those who work hard but are still below the poverty line. Many don’t believe they can qualify for this resource until they get back on their feet.

SNAP is one of the simplest ways for food-insecure families to put healthy food back on the table. The more families who know about it, and learn how much it can help, the more children will grow up with brighter futures.

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3 organic recipes that feed a family of 4 for under $7 a serving

O Organics is the rare brand that provides high-quality food at affordable prices.

A woman cooking up a nice pot of pasta.

Over the past few years, rising supermarket prices have forced many families to make compromises on ingredient quality when shopping for meals. A recent study published by Supermarket News found that 41% of families with children were more likely to switch to lower-quality groceries to deal with inflation.

By comparison, 29% of people without children have switched to lower-quality groceries to cope with rising prices.

Despite the current rising costs of groceries, O Organics has enabled families to consistently enjoy high-quality, organic meals at affordable prices for nearly two decades. With a focus on great taste and health, O Organics offers an extensive range of options for budget-conscious consumers.

O Organics launched in 2005 with 150 USDA Certified Organic products but now offers over 1,500 items, from organic fresh fruits and vegetables to organic dairy and meats, organic cage-free certified eggs, organic snacks, organic baby food and more. This gives families the ability to make a broader range of recipes featuring organic ingredients than ever before.


“We believe every customer should have access to affordable, organic options that support healthy lifestyles and diverse shopping preferences,” shared Jennifer Saenz, EVP and Chief Merchandising Officer at Albertsons, one of many stores where you can find O Organics products. “Over the years, we have made organic foods more accessible by expanding O Organics to every aisle across our stores, making it possible for health and budget-conscious families to incorporate organic food into every meal.”

With some help from our friends at O Organics, Upworthy looked at the vast array of products available at our local store and created some tasty, affordable and healthy meals.

Here are 3 meals for a family of 4 that cost $7 and under, per serving. (Note: prices may vary by location and are calculated before sales tax.)

O Organic’s Tacos and Refried Beans ($6.41 Per Serving)

Few dishes can make a family rush to the dinner table quite like tacos. Here’s a healthy and affordable way to spice up your family’s Taco Tuesdays.

Prep time: 2 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Total time: 22 minutes

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 packet O Organics Taco Seasoning ($2.29)

O Organics Mexican-Style Cheese Blend Cheese ($4.79)

O Organics Chunky Salsa ($3.99)

O Organics Taco Shells ($4.29)

1 can of O Organics Refried Beans ($2.29)

Instructions:

1. Cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat until thoroughly browned; remove any excess grease.

2. Add 1 packet of taco seasoning to beef along with water [and cook as directed].

3. Add taco meat to the shell, top with cheese and salsa as desired.

4. Heat refried beans in a saucepan until cooked through, serve alongside tacos, top with cheese.

tacos, o organics, family recipesO Organics Mexican-style blend cheese.via O Organics

O Organics Hamburger Stew ($4.53 Per Serving)

Busy parents will love this recipe that allows them to prep in the morning and then serve a delicious, slow-cooked stew after work.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 7 hours

Total time: 7 hours 15 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 ½ lbs O Organics Gold Potatoes ($4.49)

3 O Organics Carrots ($2.89)

1 tsp onion powder

I can O Organics Tomato Paste ($1.25)

2 cups water

1 yellow onion diced ($1.00)

1 clove garlic ($.50)

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

2 tsp Italian seasoning or oregano

Instructions:

1. Cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat until thoroughly browned; remove any excess grease.

2. Transfer the cooked beef to a slow cooker with the potatoes, onions, carrots and garlic.

3. Mix the tomato paste, water, salt, pepper, onion powder and Italian seasoning in a separate bowl.

4. Drizzle the mixed sauce over the ingredients in the slow cooker and mix thoroughly.

5. Cover the slow cooker with its lid and set it on low for 7 to 8 hours, or until the potatoes are soft. Dish out into bowls and enjoy!

potatoes, o organics, hamburger stewO Organics baby gold potatoes.via O Organics


O Organics Ground Beef and Pasta Skillet ($4.32 Per Serving)

This one-pan dish is for all Italian lovers who are looking for a saucy, cheesy, and full-flavored comfort dish that takes less than 30 minutes to prepare.

Prep time: 2 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

Total time: 27 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 tbsp. olive oil

2 tsp dried basil

1 tsp garlic powder

1 can O Organics Diced Tomatoes ($2.00)

1 can O Organics Tomato Sauce ($2.29)

1 tbsp O Organics Tomato Paste ($1.25)

2 1/4 cups water

2 cups O Organics Rotini Pasta ($3.29)

1 cup O Organics Mozzarella cheese ($4.79)

Instructions:

1. Brown ground beef in a skillet, breaking it up as it cooks.

2. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder

3. Add tomato paste, sauce and diced tomatoes to the skillet. Stir in water and bring to a light boil.

4. Add pasta to the skillet, ensuring it is well coated. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Remove the lid, sprinkle with cheese and allow it to cool.

o organics, tomato basil pasta sauce, olive oilO Organics tomato basil pasta sauce and extra virgin olive oil.via O Organics

Joy

Terrified, emaciated dog comes to life as volunteer sits with him for human connection

He tries making himself so small in the kennel until he realizes he's safe.

Terrified dog transforms after human sits with him.

There's something about dogs that makes people just want to cuddle them. They have some of the sweetest faces with big curious eyes that make them almost look cartoonish at times. But not all dogs get humans that want to snuggle up with them on cold nights; some dogs are neglected or abandoned. That's where animal shelters come in, and they work diligently to take care of any medical needs and find these animals loving homes.

Volunteers are essential to animal shelters running effectively to fill in the gaps employees may not have time for. Rocky Kanaka has been volunteering to sit with dogs to provide comfort. Recently he uploaded a video of an extremely emaciated Vizsla mix that was doing his best to make himself as small as possible in the corner of the kennel.

Kanaka immediately wanted to help him adjust so he would feel comfortable enough to eat and eventually get adopted. The dog appeared scared of his new location and had actually rubbed his nose raw from anxiety, but everything changed when Kanaka came along.


The volunteer slowly entered the kennel with the terrified dog, crouching on his knees for an easy escape if needed. But the dog attempted to essentially become invisible by avoiding eye contact and staying curled in a tiny ball. It seemed like it was going to take a long time for this nervous pup to warm up.

Before long, he's offered a treat. Success! The brown dog takes the treat, and as minutes pass you can see his body slowly relax, eventually coming to sit directly next to Kanaka for pets. In the few minutes of the video, you see such an amazing transformation that proves this little guy just needed some love.

"It was so cute when he started wagging his tail. You could tell his whole demeanor just changed, and he was happy. Just a few kind words and a little attention. That’s all animals need. Well, besides food. Lol," one commenter says.

"That moment when he starts to realize he's actually safe. That gradual tail wag, and the ears perking, the eyes lighting up. You don't have to be an expert to show an animal love and respect," another writes.

"After that first treat his entire demeanor changed. He went from not trusting you to thinking you may be kind and he could feel less stressed. That was really amazing to see," someone gushes.

This sweet scared dog just needed human connection by someone taking the time to sit with him to know he was safe. Once he was sure the shelter was a safe place, the dog even welcomed those who came to visit him after seeing the video.

"I went to the shelter today to visit 'Bear'! Everyone would be thrilled to hear that he seems very happy and energetic! He has a little red squeaky bone toy that he loves. He licked my hand immediately and rubbed his head on my legs and arms, eager for affection. What a sweetheart," a commenter writes.

Thanks to Kanaka's sweet gesture, the dog, now named Shadow Moon, was adopted and is now living his best life with his new human dad and husky brother. You can follow Shadow Moon's journey on his Instagram page.


This article originally appeared on 12.1.23

Images provided by P&G

Three winners will be selected to receive $1000 donated to the charity of their choice.

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Doing good is its own reward, but sometimes recognizing these acts of kindness helps bring even more good into the world. That’s why we’re excited to partner with P&G again on the #ActsOfGood Awards.

The #ActsOfGood Awards recognize individuals who actively support their communities. It could be a rockstar volunteer, an amazing community leader, or someone who shows up for others in special ways.

Do you know someone in your community doing #ActsOfGood? Nominate them between April 24th-June 3rdhere.Three winners will receive $1,000 dedicated to the charity of their choice, plus their story will be highlighted on Upworthy’s social channels. And yes, it’s totally fine to nominate yourself!

We want to see the good work you’re doing and most of all, we want to help you make a difference.

While every good deed is meaningful, winners will be selected based on how well they reflect Upworthy and P&G’s commitment to do #ActsOfGood to help communities grow.

That means be on the lookout for individuals who:

Strengthen their community

Make a tangible and unique impact

Go above and beyond day-to-day work

The #ActsOfGood Awards are just one part of P&G’s larger mission to help communities around the world to grow. For generations, P&G has been a force for growth—making everyday products that people love and trust—while also being a force for good by giving back to the communities where we live, work, and serve consumers. This includes serving over 90,000 people affected by emergencies and disasters through the Tide Loads of Hope mobile laundry program and helping some of the millions of girls who miss school due to a lack of access to period products through the Always #EndPeriodPoverty initiative.

Visit upworthy.com/actsofgood and fill out the nomination form for a chance for you or someone you know to win. It takes less than ten minutes to help someone make an even bigger impact.

Health

Neuroscience learns what Buddhism has known for ages: There is no constant self

Buddhist Monks have known for thousands of years what science is just now learning: the mind can be changed by training it.

Ven. Thich Thong Hai prays by a statue of Buddha in the garden at the Ventura Buddhist Center.

Proving that science and religion can, in fact, overlap, University of British Columbia researcher Evan Thompson has confirmed the Buddhist teaching of the not-self, or "anatta," is more than just a theory.

"Buddhists argue that nothing is constant, everything changes through time, you have a constantly changing stream of consciousness," he tells Quartz. "And from a neuroscience perspective, the brain and body is constantly in flux. There's nothing that corresponds to the sense that there's an unchanging self."


This reality that nothing stays the same should be liberating, because if people believe it, they'll no longer define themselves by their thoughts or be limited by a fixed idea of who they are. Their possibilities will be endless.

Buddhist Monks have known for thousands of years what science is just now learning: the mind can be changed by training it. Neuroplasticity, as it's called, endows people with the ability to grow and evolve, triumphing over bad habits and becoming more like the individuals they want to be.

Buddha, religion, self awareness, evolution, enlightenment

Buddha GIF

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Still, exactly how consciousness relates to the brain eludes both Buddhism and neuroscience. Buddhists suppose there's an iteration of consciousness that doesn't require a physical body; neuroscientists disagree.

"In neuroscience, you'll often come across people who say the self is an illusion created by the brain," Thompson says. "My view is that the brain and the body work together in the context of our physical environment to create a sense of self. And it's misguided to say that just because it's a construction, it's an illusion."


This article originally appeared on 09.23.17

Science

Americans see gardening changes as 'plant hardiness zones' shift across half the U.S.

Here's a quick tool to find out if your zone has changed due to warmer temperatures.

Photo by Jonathan Kemper on Unsplash, Map by USDA-ARS and Oregon State University (Public Domain)

The USDA has issued a new Plant Hardiness Zone Map

Millions of American households have a garden of some sort, whether they grow vegetables, fruits flowers or other plants. Gardening has always been a popular hobby, but more Americans turned to tending plants during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic for both stress relief and to grow their own food so they could make less trips to the store. For many people, it's a seasonal ritual that's therapeutic and rewarding.

But a shift is occurring in the gardening world. Now, due to rising temperature data, half the country find themselves in a different "plant hardiness zone"—the zones that indicate what plants work well in an area and when to plant them. Gardeners rely on knowing their hardiness zone to determine what to plant and when, but they haven't been updated since 2012.


The U.S. Department of Agriculture updated its Plant Hardiness Zone Map in late 2023, months before people in most of the country start planning their planting. We saw the 10 hottest summers ever recorded in 174 years of climate data between 2014 and 2023, but hardiness zones are actually determined by the coldest winter temperatures each year. Winters are warming at an even faster pace than summers, according to nonpartisan research and communications group Climate Central, but that may or may not be the entire reason behind the zone changes.

The USDA acknowledges that some of the zone shifts could be due to climate change but cautions against using them as hard evidence for it since factors such as improved data collection also contribute to changes in the map.

people planting flowers

Gardening can be a solo or community endeavor.

Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

"Temperature updates to plant hardiness zones are not necessarily reflective of global climate change because of the highly variable nature of the extreme minimum temperature of the year, as well as the use of increasingly sophisticated mapping methods and the inclusion of data from more weather stations," the USDA wrote in November 2023. "Consequently, map developers involved in the project cautioned against attributing temperature updates made to some zones as reliable and accurate indicators of global climate change (which is usually based on trends in overall average temperatures recorded over long time periods)."

At the same time, Chris Daly, director of the PRISM Climate Group at Oregon State University that developed the map with the USDA, told NPR, "Over the long run, we will expect to see a slow shifting northward of zones as climate change takes hold."

As an example of zone shifting, Dallas, Texas, was classified as Zone 8a in 2012, when data showed the coldest winter temperature in the city was between 10 and 15 degrees Fahrenheit on average. In 2023, with data showing the coldest winter temps falling between 15 and 20 degrees Fahrenheit, it's been shifted to Zone 8b.

Some zone shifts resulted in moving to an entirely new zone number, such as Seattle shifting from Zone 8b to Zone 9a. The overall trend was for zones to be pushed northward, but not all areas saw a shift. NPR has a helpful tool here in which you can enter your zip code, see what zone your city was previously in, what zone it's in now, and the temperature changes that caused the shift.

The bottom line is if you have a gardening book with a hardiness zones map printed before 2024, it's time for an updated map. Or check online to see what zone you fall in now to give your garden the best chance of thriving this year.


Categories are great for some things: biology, herbs, and spices, for example.

Image via

But bodies? Well, putting bodies into categories just gets weird. There are around 300 million people in America, but only 12 or so standard sizes for clothing: extra-extra-small through 5x.


That's why designer Mallorie Dunn is onto something with her belief — people have different bodies and sizing isn't catching up.

Dunn has found that the majority of clothing sizes stop at an extra-large, yet the majority of women in America are over that. "And that just doesn't make sense," she says.

All images via Smart Glamor, used with permission.

Human spice rack, only, a LOT more variations of flava. ;)



That's why she started a project around her clothing label, Smart Glamour, to document the bodies of models according to their sizes — and to show how one size can look very different on different bodies.

In pursuit of creating a fashion environment that's kinder to all bodies, Dunn has dedicated herself to educating consumers about sizing.

First, she found 60 people of 12 different sizes and took their pictures.

Then, she put five women at a time in the same size of skirt and shirt to show how diversely beautiful human bodies are and to prove that everyone looks different in clothes no matter what size they have on.

She hoped to show people that 12 sizes don't even come close to capturing the beauty of the human form.

All these models are wearing the same size ... but do they look the same?

"No matter what size you are that's not what dictates your worth or your beauty."

"I had a convo with a friend of mine who was like 'Yeah, if I went from a medium to a large, I'd be fine with it, but if I went from a large to an extra-large, that wouldn't be OK' and I was like, 'Why???' And she had no rational reason behind that," Dunn said, describing a conversation we've all either had, started, or heard. "We've been taught forever that the bigger something sounds, the worse that it is."

Dunn's project also shows just how arbitrary and narrow-minded clothing sizes are.

Sizes really are just numbers.

Unlike the images we are presented both in clothing ads and in entertainment and media, human beings aren't, as Dunn remarked, "robots who come out on a conveyor belt ... we're all shaped differently."

The pressure to look one way is obnoxious. And kinda dangerous.

"We've been taught forever that the bigger something sounds, the worse that it is."

There's so much weight — no pun intended — on being the "right" size.

"You put an 'extra' on top of a 'large,' and suddenly it's the end of the world," Dunn said of her experience in fashion sizing. "... And it really doesn't mean anything, it really only means that there's an extra inch of fabric."

One extra inch of fabric.

3 in 4 girls report feeling depressed, guilty, or shameful after just three minutes of leafing through a fashion mag.

But I'd like to imagine a world where everyone can try on clothes and leave the emotional burden of worrying about fit to the clothes.

Instead, let's focus on what looks good on our bodies. Let the clothes handle the emotional roller coaster of not fitting, and you just live your life in the body you've been given.

Dunn, who has worked for fashion houses for her whole career, puts it bluntly: "Clothes are not made for all bodies. ... We shouldn't then think when something doesn't fit us that it's somehow our fault."

Dunn's models also have a group on Facebook where they support each other, compliment each other, and generally lift each other up. Model Stephanie describes it this way: "We see the beauty in one another and help each other to recognize our own beauty at the same time." Fashion leading to body optimism and confidence? Yes, please.

And Dunn herself drives a hard line when it comes to feeling good in the skin you've been given. Her philosophy is this: No matter what size you are, that's not what dictates your worth or your beauty.

Self-worth not based on appearances. That's a category we can all aspire to "fit" into!


This article originally appeared on 07.27.16

This story first appeared on the author's Medium and is reprinted here with permission.

Because you're a girl.

I was promoted a few weeks ago, which was great. I got a lot of nice notes from friends, family, customers, partners, and random strangers, which was exciting.

But it wasn't long until a note came in saying, “Everyone knows you got the position because you're a girl." In spite of having a great week at a great company with great people whom I love, that still stung, because it's not the first time I've heard it.


Every woman who works in tech — heck, likely every woman on Earth — hears “because you're a girl" dozens, if not thousands, of times in her life.

It starts young, of course:

Why can't I join that team? Because you're a girl.

Why can't I study physics? Because you're a girl.

Then, the comments age with you.

Why can't I manage that project? Because you're a girl.

Why can't I join that group? Because you're a girl.

And after you've reached any level of attainment in a profession you love, the comments are used to minimize your success.

Why did you get that award? Because you're a girl.

Why were you chosen to participate in that class? Because you're a girl.

Like so many women before me, I have shaken off the comment.

I've gotten angry. I've gotten sad. I've doubted myself and my abilities. I've ignored it entirely. I've challenged it. I've recruited support from men and women I respect. Yet every time it stays there in the back of my mind, screaming for attention after every failure or setback.

But today is the day I've decided to change that.

I did, in fact, get the job because I'm a girl.

A girl who was called "bossy" growing up.

A girl who wasn't afraid to play with the boys.

A girl who didn't hesitate to raise her hand if she knew the answer.

A girl who stood up for other kids.

A girl who was always the first one to volleyball practice and the last to leave.

A girl who was told she was too assertive and aggressive to advance in her career.

A girl who went to MIT anyway.

A girl who asked her company to do more on diversity and inclusion and won't stop pushing until it's truly remarkable.

A girl who has made big mistakes, both personal and professional.

A girl who swings for the fences even when no one is watching.

A girl who puts in hours when other people are asleep

A girl who tells young girls how smart and strong they are.

A girl who hates to lose.

And a girl who won't stand silently while people still use “because you're a girl" as any limitation for girls who want to grow, challenge the status quo, and be something, anything, greater than society tells them they could or should.

So yeah. I guess you could say I got my job because I'm a girl, but not for any of the reasons you might think.

This story first appeared on the author's Medium and is reprinted here with permission.


This article originally appeared on 04.14.17