Monday, September 27, 2010

Public Health Campaign & Celebrity Chef Help Franciscan Center Serve Dignity With Its Meals

The Franciscan Center of Baltimore, in partnership with The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF), kicked off its own Healthy Monday campaign today to promote healthy food choices among its clients.  The goal:  to ensure that everyone, regardless of their socio-economic status, has access to safe, nutritious and delicious meals. With the help of celebrity chef Kim O’Donnel and CLF’s two outreach projects, Baltimore Food and Faith and the Johns Hopkins Healthy Monday Project, the Franciscan Center wants to show that providing a large variety of high quality foods for Baltimore’s hungry not only promotes dignity among its clients, but may also improve their health.

The Franciscan Center has a long legacy of feeding the poor and homeless in Baltimore. The Center serves as many as 500 meals a day. So far it has served 78 thousand meals this year alone. In an effort to promote personal dignity through healthy and sustainable living, the Franciscan Center has partnered with various local farmers, businesses, groups and organizations like CLF, the Abell Foundation, Campus Kitchens, First Fruit Farms and Wegmans Supermarket to bring healthy, organic produce and vegetables to Baltimore’s most needy in an attempt to increase the personal health of an at risk population.

According to Baltimore’s Food Policy Task Force Final Report, “Many Baltimore City residents are affected by health problems associated with a poor diet.” The Task Force also found that one in every three adults in Baltimore is obese and two out of three is considered overweight. Ed McNally, Franciscan Center Executive Director, believes that, “if we can increase the nutrition content in the food served to the City’s poorest and most disadvantaged citizens -- many with or at risk for contracting disease -- then we will positively impact public health.

Saint Francis of Assisi said, “It is not fitting, when one is in God's service, to have a gloomy face or a chilling look.” McNally added today that the Franciscan Center believes, “that you can’t serve an unhealthy meal with a smile. It is the next step; there is nothing more dignified than a nutritious meal.” Rev. Dred Scott, Pastor of St. Matthew United Methodist Church in Turner Station agrees. "At St. Matthew we are always looking at quality of life issues,” says Rev. Scott. He believes that, “if you are what you eat, then eating healthy and having access to healthy, nutritional food is a must. Our community garden has provided fresh produce to a substantial number of people in the community over the past several years at no cost." Rev. Scott and McNally are both members of CLF’s Baltimore Food and Faith advisory board.

O’Donnel, a trained chef and author of the newly released “Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook,” took time off from her book tour to share recipes and some cooking tips with the Franciscan Center’s two full-time cooks today. O’Donnel says, “I was proud to take part in today’s event. Food is such an integral part of everyone’s life.  Helping to promote the idea that everyone deserves access to healthy delicious food is very important to me.”

“Launching Healthy Monday has been a challenge,” says Kim Greggory, Franciscan Center cook. “But by bringing in experts, like Chef O’Donnel, to teach us how to prepare healthier balanced lunches, I’ve been able to not only better prepare fresh vegetables, but I take that knowledge home and feed my own family better,” added Greggory.

O’Donnel has long supported Healthy Monday and Meatless Monday through her columns at the Washington Post and several popular blogs. Healthy Monday is a public health initiative whose goal is to prevent chronic diseases by offering people weekly prompts to start and sustain healthy behaviors, such as making healthy food choices. The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, based at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, serves as technical and scientific advisor for Healthy Monday and its sister campaign Meatless Monday. McNally says Meatless Monday is just the first of many Healthy Monday programs the Franciscan Center plans to promote throughout the year.

Additional information can be found on the following web pages:

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future:

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Providing The Hungry With Healthy Food: Celebrity Chef Helps Baltimore Center Serve Dignity With Its Meals

On Monday, September 27th, The Franciscan Center of Baltimore, in association the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF), will launch its own Healthy Monday campaign to promote healthy food choices among its clients and the goal to make sure that everyone, regardless of their socio-economic status, has access to safe, nutritious and delicious meals. With the help of CLF’s two outreach projects, Baltimore Food and Faith and the Johns Hopkins Healthy Monday Project, the Franciscan Center wants to show that providing a large variety of high quality foods for Baltimore’s hungry not only promotes dignity among its clients but it could also improve their health.
On Monday, The Franciscan Center’s executive director Ed McNally will welcome Kim O’Donnel, trained chef and food writer, and Rev. Dred Scott, pastor of St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church in Turner Station and member of the Baltimore Food and Faith advisory board to help introduce Meatless Monday, the first of many Healthy Monday programs the Franciscan Center will promote.

O’Donnel is the author of the “The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook, Vegetarian Recipes Carnivores Will Devour.”  She has been invited by the Franciscan Center’s cooks to share recipes from her cookbook and help them serve more than 500 people.

What:              Public Health Campaign Launch for Baltimore’s Hungry
When:              Monday, September 27
Time:              10:00 AM
Where:             101 W. 23rd Street, Baltimore, MD 21218
Parking:           Gated lot off of Maryland Ave.

Additional information can be found on the following web pages:

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future:

Monday, September 20, 2010

Field Trip to the Heart

The Franciscan Center's older sister is St. Elizabeth School, an outreach of the Sister's of Saint Francis of Assisi who is turning 50 next year. As our sister and partner in serving the needs of Baltimore I want to take you on a little field trip.

St. Elizabeth School is located over by John Hopkins University in North Baltimore, on Argonne Drive. It began as an orphanage to African-American children, and then began meeting the needs of another forgotten population: disabled children. Today the school along with its long history is teaching children with intellectual disabilities, traumatic brain injuries, emotional disturbances, and the entire spectrum of autism disorders.  They welcome students from across the state, and caters to each child's educational needs.

"We are so thankful that our a student at St. E's. Everyone is so loving and caring - and no task seems to be so strange or difficult for you if it meets a student's needs."

The stories are remarkable. And the process of bringing a child through the programs, outstanding. Peeking into an art therapy class I see an array of children with markedly different disability and levels. But I also see an art teacher, a social worker, a speech pathologist, and volunteers.  All utilizing their separate expertise and training toward one goal. To provide a student-centered approach that integrates social and emotional development, academic growth and functional life skills.

"My son has begun to make great progress in reading and math for the first time in his educational history. After years of resistance, he now wants to go to school."

I encourage you to take a moment and check out the school's website. I am both inspired and awed by the amount of love and joy radiating from St. Elizabeth's School. In our own back yard, our neighbors taking care of our community. Helping us, as we help them, to continue building a sustainable city. A city where  entire populations, such as ours; the homeless and financially disenfranchised, and St. Elizabeth's; children with disabilities, can have a voice and can find assistance to provide futures and lives that are balanced, productive and sustainable.

written by Heather Newman
quotes from St. Elizabeth School website.

St. Elizabeth School

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Happy Birthday to us! a note from our Executive Director


The Franciscan Center opened on September 10, 1968. Sister Irene Marshiano was the first director. Of the early days, she recalled, “There were just two of us [Sisters], plus Third Order members and lay volunteers. The first month, we served 30 people.”  Wow, and just today, September 9th, 2011, the Franciscan Center served 399 people in our dining room. 
What a good work God began through the efforts of two Sisters and a few dedicated volunteers.  A good and necessary work that is still needed in Baltimore City.  A work that, please God, will still reach out to the poor and fulfill our mission: “to provide emergency assistance and supportive outreach to persons who are economically disenfranchised in an effort to assist them in realizing their self-worth and dignity as people of God.” 
Over the past forty two years the Franciscan Center has grown and changed, had ups and downs, faced challenges and celebrated blessings – it has a life.  A real, vital and purposeful life.  The Center’s life has not always been easy, but it has always been appreciated because the life of the Franciscan Center has touched and transformed the lives of thousands of human beings.  With a kind hand, a gentle smile, a warm meal, a bus token or a voucher, the life of the Center has always been a life for others.  A Franciscan life.
Today, at 42, the Center is very much alive.  Alive and well, and getting better every day.  Our mission is being fulfilled in the same familiar and important ways, but also with new partnerships.  Our kitchen staff and volunteers are working with the Johns Hopkins University Center for a Livable Future to provide more fresh, organic produce to be served in our dining room. 
We’re working with the Baltimore Community Foundation and their BG&E Community Initiative to provide even more utility assistance to those in need.  We have received support from the Legg Mason Foundation, the Abell Foundation and others to provide more comprehensive assistance through our dedicated staff and volunteers in our Responsive Services (formerly Emergency Services).  We even have students from the University of Maryland School of Social Work learning from our own social workers the art of caring.  And speaking of art, the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) will soon be sending students to work with our clients to express their own creativity, through MICA’s Community Arts Program.  Yes, we are very much alive. 

God is good. We have been richly blessed in the wake of a difficult and challenging year.  I invite you to celebrate with me the gift of life that is the Franciscan Center, brought forth on September 10, 1968 in a row home on Maryland Avenue.  Who would have thought it.  Happy Birthday Franciscan Center!  And many, many more.

Yours truly,                  

Edward F. McNally
Executive Director

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Thursday, September 9, 2010

The cool winds of Sustainability

Fall is in the air. I can smell it. The crisp cool breezes that whisper in my ears as they race past my shoulders. Long summer days, winding down and making way for afternoon walks that are actually enjoyable. And moments with friends and family as we look forward to the months ahead.

It is with the happy thoughts of pumpkins, spices, and sweaters that I think about sustainability. As buzz words go, the word, 'sustainability' seems to be attached to the backs of swarms of bees. It gets our attention and perhaps makes us feel like we are in some way helping our planet. Just thinking about sustainability makes me feel good.

But what does it mean? How does living a sustainable life translate outside of taking reusable bags to the market, or putting our plastic in the recycle bin?

One of the goals here at The Franciscan Center is to help our clients grow in dignity and build a life that is sustainable. We want to address the needs of the whole person. It starts, as with so many of the people who come here for help, with a meal in our dining room.

Through partnerships with our community we have been blessed to be able to serve locally grown, organic fruits and vegetable to our clients, helping them get the right kinds of calories and nutrients they need to stay healthy. That promotes sustainable personal health.

From there you can go to our clothing counter and get a warm jacket for the coming cool nights. Improving your comfort and health. But it goes deeper than that. The jackets, pants, shirts, new undergarments, and business attire have all been donated. Most lightly worn and now recycled.

Turning from the clothing counter you can then walk to our Technical Resource Center (TRC). Where you are welcomed, and given a computer to use, an email address, and taught the skills that will help you mine for jobs, create resumes, and how to improve your interview process. Helping you grow your independence and security. Promoting sustainability within your financial life.

As you leave the TRC you go upstairs to the second floor where you can get your mail, a bus token to make it across town to a doctors appointment, or see one of our social workers about housing assistance and to learn about other programs offered in our community.  You can also sign up for an art class headed up by MICA student volunteers.

Leaving the center, wrapped in warmth, you realize that you have just had your body, mind and soul fed. And perhaps learned that sustainability comes in many many different forms. One of which we often times forget is simply to be kind to those around you.

written by, Heather Newman

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