Oakland-based Meals for Change is a charitable "social enterprise kitchen" whose ready-to-eat vegan and vegetarian casseroles, pies, pilafs, and other dishes are now available in the refrigerated sections of Berkeley Natural Grocery, El Cerrito Natural Grocery, Planet Organics in Piedmont, and the Village Market in Oakland.
Food banks in the East Bay are reporting a cascade of requests for help, according to Robert Jordan of the Contra Costa Times. Alameda County Community Food Bank workers told Jordan that they received nearly 6,000 calls in July and August, a record for the Food Bank. The executive director of The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano reported a 20 to 30 percent increase in the number of people seeking food.
It wasn't very long ago that all meals were made with local ingredients, because they had to be, and were never cooked by strangers, Mollie Katzen told a standing-room-only crowd at Berkeley's David Brower Center last night.
In the East Bay, unemployment keeps on rising. Today the Employment Development Department of California reported that the rate for May, 2009 reached 10.4% (broken down by county, that's 10.7% in Alameda and 10.0% in Contra Costa). This is a small jump from April's 10.2% rate. But compared to last May, the number of jobless individuals in the region has nearly doubled from 5.6%.
The stats in this region are below the California average of 11.2%, but higher than the 9.1% nationwide unemployment rate.
In fact, it's so bad in the East Bay that this May marks the highest unemployment rate in the region since 1990, the earliest point of comparable recorded data, said Justin Wehner, a Contra Costa County labor consultant. "When you look at March, April, and May, this is the deepest we've been. Whether we are at the bottom or it will continue, we'll have to see," he said.
The biggest industry loser is construction, which compared to one year ago has decreased by 9,900 jobs, or 15.1% of the workforce. The runner up is the trade, transportation, and utilities sector, which Wehner said has mostly been influenced by lost retail jobs. This sector lost 9,000 jobs, or 4.6%, in the two East Bay counties.
According to the report, Contra Costa County's unemployement rate ranks twelfth in the state, while Alameda County's ranks seventeeth.
The Alameda County Board of Supervisors voted to cut general assistance to the poor, in another sign of just how bad the economy is. According to the Trib, the move by the board of supes yesterday will slash the county's general assistance program, which provides cash stipends to needy adults who do not otherwise qualify for state or federal aid, by about $12 million a year. The county is coping with a $178 million deficit, caused primarily by declining state revenues and a substantial decrease in local tax proceeds.
The Oakland City Council adopted a plan last night to issue municipal identification cards to illegal immigrants. The municipal ID plan is a good one, and is based on similar programs in San Francisco and New Haven, Conn. However, before the proposal can go into affect, it must come back to the council after city staff determines how much it will cost and how Oakland will pay for it during the current economic crisis, according to the Trib. If ultimately adopted, Oakland's program will help bring the city's immigrants out of the shadows, where they are often exploited. The program was co-sponsored by Councilmembers Ignacio De La Fuente and Jean Quan.
As many as 223 state parks throughout California could be closed, including 25 in and around the Bay Area, in a cost-cutting move proposed by Governor Schwarzenegger to help deal with the state's $24 billion deficit. According to the Chron, the governor is proposing to eliminate the $150 million that parks receive from the state's general fund. If the proposal goes through, it means maintenance workers, office technicians, park superintendents, landscapers, rangers, environmental scientists, administrative officers and bookkeepers will have to be laid off. And parks that cannot sustain themselves with higher user fees would be closed. The governor warned of painful cuts if the five budget compromise measures were turned down, but voters either ignored him, or preferred the cuts to raising taxes.
The governor plans sweeping, across-the-board cuts to state services to balance the California's $21 billion deficit after voters soundly rejected five budget compromise measures on Tuesday. According to the Chron, Schwarzenegger interprets the voters' decision as a mandate to not raise taxes. "I think that the message was clear from the people," he said. "Go all out and make those cuts and live within your means." Schwarzenegger is likely to propose cuts to education, healthcare for the poor, and law enforcement, according to the San Jose Mercury News. For Alameda County, the defeat of the ballot measure will mean an additional $70 million financial problem, on top of the $178 million budget hole the county already has, according to the Trib. The Trib also has reported that the state's budget mess will severely impact Oakland public schools and other local school districts.
Sheryll Holmes teaches 3rd-5th grades in an Autism Classroom at Rosa Parks Elementary School in Berkeley. Seven years ago, the Berkeley School District began for the first time to teach some of its preschoolers with autism in dedicated Autism Classrooms. The School District now has 68 students with autism and is pondering the expansion of the program into the middle school and high school levels.
In a recently published program called **Hot SexXxy Young**, Current TV "Vanguard" producer Cerissa Tanner offers a look at teen prostitution on the streets of Oakland -- particularly along its International Blvd. epicenter, nicknamed "The Track," which one source calls a national hub for underage prostitution. In the 22-minute video, Tanner talks to three girls ages 11 to 17 about online pimping through Craigslist, drug deals on the streets of Oakland, and their personal plans for the future. To view the video and a number of extras, go here.
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