Community Gardens Yield Affordable, Healthy Options

With family budgets tightening due to rising food and fuel costs, the choice to plan healthy meals becomes more difficult – particularly when potato chips become more affordable than potatoes.  This is unfortunate news for our state, which ranks first in the nation in obesity and shows heart disease as the leading cause of death.

Local health efforts are working to reverse the unhealthy trend toward obesity in our region.  Local nonprofit, Jones Valley Urban Farm, is working with United Way, our partner agencies, and other community members to develop affordable produce options that will enable families of all incomes to pursue healthier lifestyles.

“Healthful eating becomes less of a priority to individuals and families when their dollars won’t stretch as far to cover healthful groceries.  We’re really concerned about nutrition,’ Van Matre said. ‘We want to re-energize communities to look at individual gardens in their own backyards but also even to create community gardens.'”

In Jefferson County, you can help low-income seniors and their families access healthy produce by distributing this flyer in your office, place of worship, and other community centers in your area.  Click here to find a local farmers’ market in your area.


Are premature births and birth defects linked?

The answer seems to be yes according to a recent study conducted at UAB. As the story points out, Alabama has the second highest rate of premature births in the nation. This begs a couple of questions: what can be done to lower the number of premature births and is the structure in place to serve individuals that are born premature and have long-term effects?

The answer to the first question is complicated.  United Way recently co-hosted a conference at which the filmmakers of “Unnatural Causes,” a PBS documentary series, presented the impact of social, geographic and economic factors on our health, including the frequency of premature births. 

Thankfully, our region has the structure in place to serve children born prematurely and suffering from developmental delays.  Our region has a strong children’s healthcare system, one of the lowest number of uninsured children in the country.  In addition, the United Way Success By 6 initiative and an integrated system of strong non-profit agencies are dedicated to identifying and working with children with developmental delays and special needs.   (You may find many of these on United Way’s partner list).

If you have ideas on how to prevent these types of health problems from occuring in our region, we would love to hear from you.  If you’re interested in volunteering in this area call 2-1-1 or visit Hands on Birmingham’s website.

Scooters are taking over the world.

Well, maybe not quite “taking over the world,” but they’re selling like hotcakes around the magic city. As gas prices go up more people, especially YPs, are turning toward alternative means of transportation including bicycles, carpooling, and two-wheel motorized vehicles. Our own DJ Hampton is mentioned in the article because he is often seen scooting about town on his Vespa. As gas prices approach $4 a gallon, are you changing your commute patterns? Tell us if you’re walking, riding, scooting, or other. A bigger question is will $4+ gas be a psychological barrier that produces a public outcry for a better public transit system?

As hard as the weekly fill-up is hitting you in the wallet, think about the families in our community that were on the verge of poverty or even homelessness before gas prices went off the charts. What about those senior adults that live on a fixed income? And this doesn’t include the effects on food prices and the cost of eating healthy. Look around your community and lend a hand when you can. If gas prices teach us anything, its that we’re all in this together.

Who’s in the mood to LIVE UNITED?

John Archibald is.

Now, we’re not naive enough to say that the good ol’ days always lived up to their name, but it is nice to see someone pointing out how life itself binds us together.

2 points for Mr. Archibald.

Where in the world are all the YPs?

(Hit it Rockapella!)

On the front page of this week’s Birmingham Business Journal was a story  detailing how Birmingham is struggling to attract young professionals. It appears that our fair city ranks 45th of 67 cities surveyed in YP appeal. It looks like the two biggest issues that we face are the number of YPs that currently live in the area and a self-identified “opportunity score” that rates how we perceive or city from a YP perspective. Unfortunately since we are not doing that great in attracting YPs, the number of YPS isn’t likely to change quickly; however what about the perception issue?

As a local YP, what are you looking for from Birmingham? What would make the biggest difference in how you rate your home? Is there something missing or this perhaps a case of city-wide low self-esteem?

The silver-lining:

Birmingham still ranked higher than a number of larger metro areas, such as Philadelphia and Chicago, which had worse opportunity scores, annual rate of population growth, annual rate of employment growth and had higher unemployment rates for young adults.

Isn’t this just like one of those “thank goodness for Mississippi Chicago & Philly” jokes?

How do you live united?

Matthew Menendez calls upon young leaders to change our communityIf you’re coming to our blog, there is a good chance you know a little about the “YP movement” in Birmingham. Groups of all various shapes and sizes have emerged over the past few years to capture the talents and interests of our local twenty- and thirty-somethings.

In the spirit of this new movement, United Way Young Leaders celebrated, with style, the launch of our new “Live United” campaign last night on the rooftop of the Kress Building in downtown Birmingham. This campaign is designed to create a unified voice for emerging leaders, and to prompt young professionals to provide creative new solutions to community problems. This means utilizing your personal talents to improve the community and combining your talents with those of other young professionals in the community.

Imagine what can happen when a doctor and a graphic artist team up to help families have a better life? What would happen when a banker and a musician join forces to transform the way we educate our youth?

In order to make this happen, Young Leaders is announcing a handful of new intitiatives to bring you together with people you may not run across in your day-to-day routine. These include a Live United Book Club, a Coffee Talk series, the LIVE UNITED YouTube challenge, and even a Movie Club – all designed to discuss local issues and devise a way for young professionals to make a tangible, lasting difference.

After that, it’s up to each of you to decide what it looks like to LIVE UNITED and to tell us all about it. Leave us a comment or take pictures or video of you living united and we’ll show you off. Welcome aboard and welcome to living united.


LIVE UNITED Launches in Birmingham

Tonight, the LIVE UNITED message will be unveiled to the Birmingham community. This new message from United Way returns our organization to its grassroots beginnings by asking everyone (young or old, black or white, doctor or artist) to come together and lend a hand to make a better community. Needless to say, we’re pretty excited about it.

Here’s the national TV spot. Send us a note and tell us what you think or, even better, tell us how you LIVE UNITED and we’ll post the comments to the site. So far we’ve already had one comment from a friend that it reminded him of an Apple commercial. If that’s true, we’re probably in pretty good marketing company.