Food and Nutrition: Hard Truths about Eating Healthy


The seventh and final report in the “City Voices: New Yorkers on Health” series, “Food and Nutrition: Hard Truths about Eating Healthy” shows that while food stamps and food pantries are critical resources, they are falling short when it comes to helping low-income New Yorkers maintain healthy eating habits. The report is the result of surveys and focus groups conducted in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, with residents representing more than 10 ethnic and cultural groups talking about the issues that have the greatest impact on their overall health and wellbeing. Community health advocates also express their views in a report that explores food insecurity and the ways that cultural differences may impact healthy eating habits.

Chart of the Week: Why the Latest U.S. Census Report Matters

To add equity data to the national dialogue about growth and prosperity, every week the National Equity Atlas posts a new chart related to current events and issues.

Yesterday, the Census Bureau released a report on 2015 income and poverty data, announcing that median household income increased by over 5 percent—the fastest growth on record. As President Obama described in a Facebook post and video with Jason Furman, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, the gains were largest among the bottom fifth of households.

To highlight why this gain — especially among the bottom quintile of earners — is so important, this week’s chart looks at real earned income growth for full-time wage and salary workers in the United States from 1980 to 2012.


Over the three decades from 1980 to 2012, the inflation-adjusted earnings of the bottom 10 percent of workers decreased the most at more than 11 percent. In fact, the whole bottom half of workers experienced real declines in their incomes over this period. At the other end, those in the top 10 percent saw their earnings increase by nearly 15 percent. The announcement that real income growth in 2015 was the fastest since 1969 for households at the 10th, 20th, 40th, 50th, and 60th percentiles is a promising finding, though there is still more to be done.

These income increases, combined with refundable tax credits, lifted millions of families and children out of poverty. In 2015, 9.2 million Americans, including 4.8 million children, moved above the poverty line with the help of credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC). Expanding these social safety net programs through a more equitable tax code and advancing pre-tax income strategies like minimum wage increases and stronger collective bargaining rights are key to supporting the more than 8 million families still in poverty. For more information on policies that contribute to wage growth, see the Economic Policy Institute’s Agenda to Raise America’s Pay.

To view the distribution of income growth in your community over the last three decades, visit the National Equity Atlas and type in your city, region, or state. Download the charts and share them on social media using #equitydata.

August 2016

Oakland’s Displacement Crisis: As Told by the Numbers


This brief highlights some of the challenges Oakland tenants are facing in the ongoing housing crisis, and some key policy steps that could provide much needed relief.

Preparing Future Leaders to Lead with Equity

Cross-posted from Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity

Economic growth is often seen as an antidote to poverty (e.g. rising tides lift all boats)—but increasing inequality in regions across the country underscores the fact that the benefits of growth are often narrowly shared.

In most regions, income and racial inequality are a legacy of myriad land-use, housing, education, tax, and economic development decisions that have disproportionately benefited wealthier, white households over lower-income and household of color. For example, for decades, public and private investment in regional transportation systems, infrastructure, and housing fueled the development of suburbs where racially restrictive covenants explicitly kept out black buyers; while redlining minimized investment in the urban core, where households of color remained.

Today, we see the reverse dynamic: Public and private investment is flowing back into many inner cities, increasing land and housing prices and disrupting social networks that act as the glue to already marginalized communities. This “reinvestment” is fueling a diaspora of community residents, especially black and Latino families, who can no longer afford to stay in their rapidly changing neighborhoods.

But where, when, and how can we have frank civic conversations about who benefits from regional economic decisions—where diverse stakeholders can come together, unpack complex issues, and explore lasting solutions?


Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) Rule is Sound Policy


While the Fair Housing Act has largely succeeded in outlawing overt housing discrimination, it has been less effective in promoting equal opportunity, in large part because of a lack of clarity and technical support surrounding the mandate to “affirmatively further” fair housing goals.

The AFFH rule provides much-needed clarification of the Fair Housing Act and provides support to HUD grantees that makes grantees better equipped to promote fair housing choice, foster inclusive communities, and increase opportunity for all residents.

September 2016

Fostering Access to Opportunity HUD’s Proposed Affirmatively Furthering Housing Rule


The Fair Housing Act of 1968 requires HUD to conduct programs in such a manner that “affirmatively furthers fair housing” – a term that has never been defined. Responding to concerns raised by the Government Accountability Office and stakeholders, the proposed Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule does three key things:
  1. Clarifies the definition of AFFH to include actions that expand mobility for all households in opportunity-rich communities, reducing segregation and concentrated poverty – as well as actions that invest in high-poverty communities, expanding opportunity for existing residents.
  2. Improves the process that local jurisdictions undertake to ensure that HUD funds are being used to further fair housing by aligning it with Consolidated Plans for CDBG and HOME allocations and with Public Housing Plans for public housing dollars.
  3. Provides local jurisdictions with consistent data to ensure that grantees can measure their progress on reducing segregation and racially concentrated

Community Artists Envision a Thriving Baltimore without Displacement

"Robust, democratically controlled community-based organizations have the capacity to drive development locally," said Greg Sawtell, a leadership organizer at Baltimore's United Workers. The human rights organization is gearing up for a month-long exhibition of the community's multiple visions for local development, opening in September. The Development Without Displacement art show will highlight works focusing on neighborhood revitalization efforts that aim to protect the city's vulnerable low-income residents from displacement, eviction, and alienation.

United Workers' arts and culture projects are intertwined with their campaigns: the projects are tools to critically engage with issues of housing, labor, and environmental injustice and draw attention to the lived experience of locals. "The arts — in the form of music, painting, storytelling, and more — are a strength that we have on the ground," said Sawtell. "We've used art both to shine a light on untold stories, and as a way to ignite the collective imagination to think beyond what seems possible in the everyday."

Free Your Voice and the fight against an incinerator

One of United Workers' most successful and well-publicized recent campaigns was an effort to block the building of a trash-to-energy incinerator in the Curtis Bay neighborhood of South Baltimore. Proposed in 2010, the 90-acre site was planned to house a plant that would burn 4,000 tons of trash a day. The complex would have been less than a mile from two public schools, in a neighborhood already beset by multiple toxic pollution burdens.

The anti-incinerator campaign was largely youth-led, spearheaded by one of United Workers' human rights committees, Free Your Voice. Young people conducted research about the impacts of the incinerator, canvassed neighborhoods to disseminate information about the plans, and organized protests and events. The students discovered that Baltimore City Public Schools (BCPS), other city government agencies, and local entities — including several arts-based institutions — had signed contracts to purchase energy from the proposed incinerator. Students launched a divestment campaign to put pressure on these entities to demonstrate their commitment to environmental justice and equitable development. Sisters Audrey and Leah Rozier wrote and performed the song "Free Your Voice" for the Baltimore City School Board in 2014, singing: "It'll all get better/We can save the world/And it starts with music/Get your message heard."

In 2015, BCPS and the Baltimore City Board of Estimates terminated their contracts with the incinerator developer, Energy Answers. In spring 2016, the Maryland Department of the Environment and the Public Service Commission both declared the incinerator's permit to be invalid, halting the project indefinitely. For her leadership in the campaign, high school student Destiny Watford became the 2016 North American winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize, which honors grassroots environmental activists.

Sawtell said that local residents initially supported Free Your Voice as a nice research project and leadership development activity, but didn't have much faith that young people would be able to stop the construction of the incinerator. "Those weren't cynical adults," he explained, "Those were people who felt like they were managing the expectations of young people. Free Your Voice went from hearing those responses to their efforts to steadily building power and a campaign, and now this is recognized as one of the most successful environmental justice campaigns currently in Maryland."

Read more in the August 18th America's Tomorrow newsletter>>>