Let's Talk Maternal Health for Mother's Day

May 03, 2022 00:39:40
Let's Talk Maternal Health for Mother's Day
Just a Bite
Let's Talk Maternal Health for Mother's Day

May 03 2022 | 00:39:40


Show Notes

With Mother’s Day just around the corner, we talk to Center for Community Solutions Health Equity Fellow Hope Lane-Gavin about the maternal and infant health issues at the front and center of today’s public policy debates. How does food insecurity disproportionately impact pregnant women, moms, and children, especially for Black and Hispanic women? How can targeted public benefit programs, like WIC, improve maternal and infant nutrition and food security, and how is Ohio doing on that front? And what should we do as anti-poverty advocates to engender change? 


Read Hope’s recent blog post, Lessons of Two Years of COVID-19: Impacts of an Offline System for WIC Beneficiaries in Ohio, the first in a series highlighting joint research with Children’s Defense Fund – Ohio. 

Learn more about other recent public policy work in Ohio related to maternal and infant health in The Center for Community Solutions State Budgeting Matters maternal and infant health issue. 

Vice President Kamala Harris Remarks on Improving Maternal Health 

Follow Hope on Twitter @HopeFromOhio and The Center for Community Solutions @CommunitySols 

More reading about the disproportionate impact of the pandemic-driven recession on Black and Hispanic parents and families, which exacerbated longstanding disparities: 

From the Urban Institute: Forty Percent of Black and Hispanic Parents of School-Age Children Are Food Insecure 

From Feeding America: Black communities face unique challenges that result in greater likelihood of facing hunger during the pandemic 

From FRAC: The Impact of Food Insecurity on Women’s Health 

From USDA ERS: Food insecurity rates were highest for single mothers with children and for Black and Hispanic households  

Find your local foodbank to find help, volunteer, and donate here.  

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Want more updates? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and take our latest hunger-fighting actions!  

We are licensed to use the song, Goals and Dreams by Boomer, which is distributed and owned by PremiumBeat. 

Ohio Association of Foodbanks is a registered 501c3 nonprofit organization without party affiliation or bias. We are Ohio’s largest charitable response to hunger and our mission is to assist Ohio’s 12 Feeding America foodbanks in providing food and other resources to people in need and to pursue areas of common interest for the benefit of people in need. 

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 1 00:00:16 Welcome just bite listeners. This is joy, and I'm so thrilled to have my dear friend and colleague hope lane. Gavin, joining us for this mother's day themed episode, hope serves as a health equity fellow for the center for community solutions. She has a bachelor's in political science and a master's in political management. And previously worked in the Ohio legislature as a fellow with the Ohio led legislative service commission. And as a senior legislative aid in her current role, she is a fierce and well versed advocate who focuses on issues, including public benefits and nutrition, maternal health and racism as a public health crisis. And y'all, I can also tell you that she is a great friend to have in your corner, and we are lucky to have her working on these issues right here in Ohio. So we're going to talk today about some of the maternal and infant health issues at the front and center of today's public policy debates, how they tie into our work as anti-hunger and anti-poverty advocates and what we can do to drive positive change. Thanks for joining us. Speaker 2 00:01:26 Oh, let's dive right in. Thanks for joining me on the podcast today. Speaker 3 00:01:31 Thanks J um, I just wanna take a second to say thank you for having me today. If you've been following, um, the Ohio association of food banks for the past several years, you have likely seen jewelry and I joking around and feeding off of each other on tour or Facebook or a webinar or a work group, uh, joy and I's friendship truly developed out of working together throughout the pandemic in between that and growing closer to Ohio association of food banks as a whole and all of our other partners in this space, um, while I'm so sad in that a global pandemic is what was needed to bring folks together. I'm eternally grateful, um, Ohio, such a tight knit group of advocates working together to make this state a better place to live, work and thrive. Speaker 2 00:02:08 Oh, that's so beautiful. You've got me crying right at the top of our episode. I couldn't agree more. Um, and I'm glad to at least spend a little time together today, highlighting some of the issues you're really passionate about and all of the expertise and, um, compassion that you, you bring to this work. So why don't you share with our listeners who maybe don't know you from our exciting, uh, Twitter and webinar, uh, presence a little bit about what, you know, what's drawn you to these issue areas as an advocate and as a policy expert. Speaker 3 00:02:40 Yeah. So as you pointed out at community solutions, my two areas of expertise, if you will, our maternal health and nutrition access and both of which, uh, I sort of stumbled into and fell in love with, uh, while my, I myself have never been pregnant, um, as a stepmom and a dog mom. Um, I know a lot about struggles of parenthood, shout, Speaker 2 00:02:59 Shout out to mark junior Speaker 3 00:03:01 <laugh>. Um, in addition to that, however, I have a lot of personal experiences with my own reproductive healthcare journey, as I'm currently struggling with some fertility threatening complications, uh, that force me to navigate a lot of the same spaces I advocate for in my work life. Um, because of this, uh, when I joined community solutions nearly three year, years ago and was asked to help, uh, move forward, some of our statewide maternal health priorities, uh, in the legislature I was, I was in, and not only because I personally dealt with the perils of black, uh, maternal health in my personal life. But, uh, but because, you know, I came from the legislature, as you mentioned, um, before I started at community solutions, and I know how any issue, um, from a road naming, uh, to water quality can be a war, right? And I wanted to pick an issue that wasn't partisan, um, which is, you know, healthy moms and babies is something that we can all get behind. Speaker 3 00:03:49 And luckily for that reason, um, I think that that's why we've been able to make so much progress, um, on this front, in the past couple of years and when it comes to landing in the nutrition space, um, if I'm being honest, my colleagues, Rachel Kayhill shout out to her as well, uh, needed a little help analyzing some user experience surveys, uh, with the snap program, um, early on in the pandemic. And because she was so willing to introduce me to the space and was so patient and so kind, I was able to catch on, um, to it easily. Um, and sometimes it just takes the kindness of one person to kind of bring you and, um, help you to fall in love with something. So I kind of just stumbled upon both of these issue areas actually. Speaker 2 00:04:26 Well, I think you're doing a little disservice to yourself to say that you stumbled upon them, because I think that from my perspective, you've been really led to this work. I think we all know as advocates that, um, you know, your skillsets can only drive you so far and you're passionate us to take you the rest of the way. And, um, I think your passion speaks for itself. Um, and, and on top of your passion, your willingness to, you know, share your personal connection to this work, um, has been really a source of strength and inspiration for me. And I know many other advocates. So thank you for bearing, you know, your experiences as part of your, your larger advocacy work. And I know that it's, you know, nutrition and food security and hunger are just a piece of the larger set of issues in your portfolio. Speaker 2 00:05:13 But I also know that you, you care a lot about access to public benefits and, and support for folks facing food insecurity. So we're gonna zoom in a little bit, um, to start out today on, on that issue area and just to set the stage, this might feel like common sense to listeners, um, or not common sense rather, but, um, commonly known facts at this point. Um, but just to reiterate how devastating food insecurity is in part for women in particular for mothers in particular for single mothers in particular for black mothers in particular for Hispanic mothers and, and young children, um, and just the consequences that it has for maternal and infant health outcomes, short and long term, you know, that's what I wanna center us in today to start. Um, we saw this exacerbated to an unbelievable degree during the pandemic, um, where we saw, for example, that over percent of black and Hispanic parents of school aged children were food insecure. Um, during the early months of the pandemic. I mean, that's, that's just unacceptable any measure of food insecurity for parents and kids, or anyone is unacceptable, but, oh my God, like, it's, it's just devastating. So, you know, with that in mind, um, can you talk with our listeners about some of the underlying reasons that pregnant people, that mothers of infants and young children and parents in particular suffer from food insecurity at higher rates? Speaker 3 00:06:56 Yeah, absolutely. So, I mean, one of it, part of it really is just the social determinants of health, right? So your ability to get to the store, right. Uh, transportation, how, how readily available is public transportation? Um, how are the roads are the roads, right? Are they, are they paved? And so some of these like very basic things that we take for granted, um, become much harder, uh, when, when you have a child or when you're with child. And so, uh, doing a very basic thing, like getting to the grocery store, um, which you may walk, you may drive, you may take public transportation, but all of those things become increasingly difficult. When you add another person, a little person, a person that needs a carrier or needs, you know, fed in the middle of the trip, or you have to carry the child and the grocery bags. Speaker 3 00:07:40 And so, um, all of those things, um, become twice as difficult. If not more, depending on, you know, how many children you may have, um, you know, when, when you're trying to do them alone. And so there's that, but there's also just parental stress. Right. And so, um, lots of parents, um, I'm, I'm sure we're gonna get into this later. Um, uh, my colleague, Katherine ger, and our, and I are in the middle of doing a WIC project and much of which, uh, right now is just simply interviewing, um, WIC recipients and WIC beneficiaries. And so, um, we are finding that, um, a lot of new parents just don't know what to do, what, what to ask, what to do, if their child isn't eating, um, what to do, should they change formula? Should they just keep trying? What if they're not latching a lot of new parents, you know, especially first time parents, they don't know what to ask and who to ask. Speaker 3 00:08:28 And a lot of times, um, you know, you can find answers from whether it's your pediatrician, your OB GYN, or the WIC office, or the snap office. But if you don't know what to ask, then it's useless. And so I think that, um, rental stress has been exacerbated truly during the pandemic during a time when, um, it was harder to connect and harder to contact. But I think just generally, um, we are finding just a lot of parents don't know, it's not that it's not necessarily that resources aren't available to everyone, but it's like, if you don't know what to ask, then you're not gonna get an answer. And then, you know, when you're in the middle of the night and your child's not latching, what do you do? And I think just like you and I talk about this all the time jewelry, but access to public benefits is hard. Speaker 3 00:09:08 Um, administrative burdens alone can be the difference between getting benefits and keeping them, and you can be eligible and come eligible. Um, household eligible, you can meet all the eligibility requirements, but if you can't fill out, you know, these ridiculous, uh, paperworks and recertifications that you get in the mail, if you don't get it on time, um, we just learned recently in Franklin county, um, here in Columbus, you can only call the, the JFS line from 8:00 AM to noon and talk to a person. And after that, you might get a call back. You might not. And so, um, they don't make it easy <laugh> um, and so when you it's already difficult and when you start adding the pressures of parenthood and the pressures of a new baby and a newborn, um, to the mix, it just exacerbates many issues that are already there. Speaker 2 00:09:51 Yeah, absolutely. I feel like there's so, so much judgment are new parents and parents of small kids and babies. And I'm sure that they're also, I know I can relate to that. You really internalize a lot of your fear and, and trepidation about approaching folks for help as well. You don't wanna appear incapable or ill-equipped to care for your child. Um, and, and on top of that, right, we have a systemic, I will just add that the vast majority of working moms get very little to no, usually no paid time off to, you know, deliver their child to be at home with their child, to work through any of those learnings and that, that growth with their child and feeding their child. So, uh, yeah, we've got a lot to work on, and I know that some of those challenges that you talked about and others are much worse and much more ingrained for black and Hispanic parents. Can you talk with our listeners about how systemic racism further exacerbates disparities for those parents and those populations? <affirmative> Speaker 3 00:10:58 Yeah. There's quite a few things here, Dori. Um, I mean, so much of our public benefit programming in this country is designed to deter the very things we wanna encourage such as marriage, such as work such as independence, but we're not here, I guess, to talk about the benefit cliff and stuff like that are we do so <laugh> Speaker 2 00:11:15 All day. Speaker 3 00:11:16 So while pregnant people and pay of young children are largely exempt from some of that stuff. So like work requirements, um, unmarried couples, um, struggle to navigate who needs to work and when, right. And so, and we know work requirements or having to literally work for food is inherently racist, um, and largely stems from this racist stereotype that black and brown folks don't wanna work, um, and work requirements lead to greater food insecurity by removing people from the programs re sanctions and deterring others from registering. Also the nature of work requirements, um, is that the, of the work that's performed because of work requirements to, uh, is largely unskilled and or low wage, and rarely leads to long term gainful employment. And when you think about what one needs, right, to get and maintain a good job, which entails, you know, job security of benefits, package, living wage, low stress, you think about the things that you that are needed, right? Speaker 3 00:12:11 So you need no criminal history, probably a high school diploma, if not a college degree, a network appears in the desired industry, digital literacy, et cetera, et cetera, cetera. But we know that black and brown individuals who in turn become black and brown parents are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system, uh, leaving them with criminal records and, you know, are disproportionately, uh, attending inner city under resource schools and therefore not graduating high school at the same rate. We also know that the digital vibe isn't just an issue in Appalachia, right. Just applying for a job is a struggle is just as hard and parts of east Cleveland as it is in east Bitton county in our state. Like you said, systemic racism, exacerbates the disparity. I guess you've already summed it up with the, with the question is, um, this disparity that already exists when you add the public benefits programs, it just, it just continues to, to, to grow, I guess. Speaker 2 00:13:05 Yeah. I mean, I think we, you and I certainly couldn't agree more that we do not in any way appropriately invest, especially in our future. Our future are pregnant persons, bringing new babies into our world, our communities, raising them up to be engaged citizens. Uh, you know, I think it's a personal passion for both of us that parents be empowered to do that hard work. That is, is the most important work beyond all other work. Um, so, okay. Let's maybe zoom in and out at the same time and talk about how does all of what we're talking about fit into the divides in health outcomes, more broadly, specifically for pregnant and nursing people and for black and Hispanic infants and young children, we've talked about all this, but how does that, that look in real terms as it relates to health outcomes for those moms and babies? Speaker 3 00:14:01 I mean, so in addition to all of the other bad news, we just discussed and touched on it gets worse. <laugh> um, unfortunately when you consider all that black and brown parents have to go through and many times before labor and delivery and things don't look better, much better for them, you know, during and after labor and delivery. Um, black women in Ohio are two and a half times more likely to die of a pregnancy related death than white women. Um, this fact gets more urgent. And with age as black women, age 30 and older are four to five times more likely to die in childbirth than white women. Um, current rates of severe maternal morbidity, which is like a near miss or a near death and almost death, um, among black Ohio women are nearly two times higher at 112 per 10,000 deliveries compared to severe maternal morbidity rates for white Ohio women as 60.5 per 10,000 deliveries. Speaker 3 00:14:51 Um, reasons for these disparities vary, but what it boils down to is systemic and institutional racism. So weathering that is black women's bodies, aging at a much faster rate, making them biologically older than their white counterparts due to having to endure, you know, constant racism and discrimination and stress. You have the implicit bias of doctors and medical professional is just not listening to, um, you know, families of color when they say, Hey, I don't think I should be bleeding right now. Hey, I think I'm in labor. You have, you know, doctors sending folks home that shouldn't be sent home. You have higher rates of C-sections among, um, black families, black women, um, and which, you know, complicates, you know, C-section is a major your major surgery and, um, which can result in, you know, complications, infections and things. And when you have, um, you know, a black woman are 34% more likely to have a C-section and many of those are not necessary C-sections, but rather convenient rates C-sections, uh, whether that be because, you know, doctors are switching shifts, they get on with their lives, they have something else to do. Speaker 3 00:15:54 Um, let's just knock out the C-section really quick. Well, that sounds really, you know, easy and convenient for you, but it's costly, it's deadly. And it also makes recovery and caring for a newborn incredibly difficult. So when you start talking about a C-section and then you get into food insecurity, how are we supposed to it's it expect a, a mom that, you know, had a C-section three days ago to get, you know, walked down to the Walgreens, um, use her WIC benefits if, if they've even, you know, enrolled in those yet and, you know, with a carrier and, you know, bags, and she has a C like, it's just not realistic. Right. Um, and so unfortunately, um, you know, these health outcomes are just as poor as, you know, their access to food. And in some cases, Speaker 2 00:16:36 Even talking about the pylon upon pylon that we're talking about for these families and these new moms, uh, can be debilitating. And so we can only imagine what it feels like day to day for them living in that space. And, you know, I know that you are working in the weeds really on specific policy changes that can be made right now to improve some of those outcomes. So let's dive into some, some good vibes, some things that we think can be done to improve the lives of moms and babies who are impacted by these disparities, um, especially in the way of nutrition. I know that you mentioned earlier that you're working on some research on the women, infants and children, or with program, um, with our friend and colleague Catherine, over at children's defense fund of Ohio. Would you talk with us a little bit more about that maybe in some of you early findings around areas for improvement? Speaker 3 00:17:37 Yeah, absolutely. Um, and Hey, Catherine, shout out to Catherine. We love you, um, over at children's defense fund, Ohio, you and Tracy are wonderful. Um, so Catherine and I are, um, currently in the middle of a pretty expansive and comprehensive project looking, um, at, you know, where maternal health and nutrition meet, like you said, the WIC program known as known in Ohio as Ohio WIC. Um, very simple. Um, but WIC is the special supplemental nutrition program for women infants and children, and is designed, you know, to safeguard the health of low income women infants up to age five, who are at nutrition risk by providing, uh, nutritious foods to them at no cost. Um, participation in the program has proven, uh, to be effective at combating many poor, um, maternal and infant health outcomes, such as reducing infant mortality, reducing incidences of low birth weight, um, and more with also helps participants make stronger connections to preventative healthcare and other supports such as home visiting, smoking cessation, lead screening, breastfeeding support, and more it's, it's a wonderful program while our project is still ongoing. Speaker 3 00:18:39 Um, we have uncovered quite a bit in the first few months, um, about how the program operates in Ohio. First, Ohio is one of only nine states, uh, who operates the program offline. Um, this means a few things. So one applicants can't apply for the program online, which is very unique compared to other public benefit programs in our state and in our country. Um, you can apply for Medicaid online, you can apply for, um, um, snap or food stamp benefits online. You can apply for a publicly funded childcare online, um, heap online, the, the, uh, program, um, assists with paying, um, heating bills, um, et cetera. So this, you know, movement online, um, has, has happened, uh, over the past two decades or so for these other programs. Um, but in Ohio, um, applicants or potential applicants, um, can apply for the program online, they must print and mail, um, or take the application up to the clinic or simply, you know, just drive the of the clinic. Speaker 3 00:19:31 Um, we found many people just do that. Other public benefit programs at a minimum, uh, can screen people too, um, online to let them know, you know, if they are likely eligible and what they might be eligible for. So I know that there are some tools online, um, that says, you know, with your, with the snap program, for example, you know, type in your, you know, average, monthly income, how many people in your house, old, uh, rent expenses, and they can kind of give you an estimate as to, you know, whether almost, if it's worth it, you know, to come to keep going through the program. A lot of people think many of the administrative, um, burdens and paperwork aren't worth it. Um, but, um, that's up to them and, uh, but WIC doesn't allow that. So you can't just type in a few things online, oh, I might give $50 a month. Speaker 3 00:20:13 This is worth it. Let me keep going. You can't do that in Ohio. You can, in other states, you cannot in Ohio. Another thing that this means this offline benefit means is recipients have to physically go to the clinic to get their benefits. So although the WIC, um, program operates on like a debit, like card, similar to the snap or food stamp program, am you have to literally go to the physical clinic inside, drive their inside and hand your car to someone who has to put it on a machine to get the benefits loaded. So imagine a lot of people are way more familiar with the food stamp for snap program than the WIC program. So imagine every month, if you had to take that snap card, that Ohio, um, EBT card up to a, a place just to be able to, to then have to go to the store to use the benefits. Speaker 3 00:20:59 Again, this is not consistent with most other states in this country. Again, we're one of nine. And then the, here is people are unaware of their, a benefit balance, um, because of this offline system, right? So, um, there is an app that a lot of folks use it's called like the WIC shoppers app. And it's, it's very helpful, um, in my experience with the interviewees and the program. Um, but even that, um, which does show you, you know, what's left on your card every month, even that is slow to upload, uh, or update rather, um, because we're offline, it, it takes 24 to 48 hours to like reset and let you know what the balance is. So I say all that to say, one of our biggest recommendations is to bring our program online. And, you know, we know it's not as easy as clicking a button. Speaker 3 00:21:42 We know that, um, this will, um, mean some changes for retailers having change over their point of sale devices. Um, we know that this is, you know, a little cumbersome for the state, but one of our, um, you know, main points of recommendations, no matter who we talk to from WIC directors across the, uh, across the state, really from Lucas county to Franklin county, to Cuyahoga county, uh, Perry, Athens county, everyone agrees <laugh>, um, it's time bring our program online. It's it's time to modernize, um, our program, um, we over the pandemic. So between December of 2019 and December of 2021, so that two years there, um, Ohio's WIC participation rate, uh, decreased by nearly 16%. So 15.9, 2%. Um, so that means there are eligible Ohioans and eligible Ohio families that are just dropping off of the program because it's just too complicated. Um, and we should never just not feed our children and our pregnant people in our state because it's too complicated. Um, so we, like I said, we are still in the middle of this project. We have quite a few other recommendations that we are still, uh, flushing out. But I mean, um, bringing our program online is certainly, certainly certainly our first recommendation. Speaker 2 00:22:56 Well, I'm so grateful, first of all, that you all are dedicating the time and the, and the brain power to really doing the hard work and uncovering these again, what, see like common sense attainable solutions to, um, barriers that, to accessing a program that is really well suited to addressing not all, it's not a cure, all, like we're not talking about WIC or other public benefits, being a cure all for the systemic root causes of poverty and wealth and wage inequity and racism, but we're talking about improving the way that we implement solutions, right. That we all believe in. And so, like, I, you know, I, I have to admit, I get, I get really frustrated on my end when I hear about like, just that example of, we know, as, uh, as a state and as a society that we have a maternal and infant mortality and morbidity crisis, and we have for years, and here is a really common sense solution to modernize this program that as you said, is at the intersection a, of maternal and infant health and nutrition, and we just need the willpower to do it right. We need the willpower to do it. So, um, I guess I'm sharing a little bit of my frustration, um, in some of this work, would you mind talking, you know, what would you say frustrates you sometimes when you're doing this work, what keeps you up at night? <affirmative> Speaker 3 00:24:25 Oh, jewelry, you know, I, I text you all night about all of the things that keep me up at night, but honestly, and you, you just touched on it and I agree, it's the bureaucracy that gets in the way of people's basic needs being met. So like I said, you can qualify and you, your household can qualify and your income can qualify. And I, you know, I'm all here for, you know, parameters being around programs to ensure those that need it most, um, have access to them. But, you know, I heard this term yesterday and actually, I think it was from an article that you shared with me, Tori, um, called the time tax. So if you, um, you know, can make it that difficult for someone to access something they're eventually just not going to, right. So if you have a 29 page applic for a public benefit program, I mean, the chances of you filling out every, all 29 pages accurately and write the first time, and, you know, you're in this vulnerable situation, which has brought you to this application to begin with. Speaker 3 00:25:19 Um, and so it's like, you can meet all the, their requirements, but if you mess up some paperwork or don't get it in on time, um, you know, we've heard countless, countless stories recently about, you know, the post post office and all their struggles have impacted the way, uh, people, you know, whether or not they get their benefits or whether they're cut off, you know, if you get your recertification notice in the mail, but the mail's running late <laugh> so you have this letter sitting somewhere in a post office, somewhere in your state that says, call JFS at this time to re-certify your benefits. And once you get the letter, um, you know, that data's coming past be to no fault of your own. Maybe you were on vacation or maybe the mail didn't come, or maybe it went to your neighbor's house on accident. Speaker 3 00:26:02 So now you go to the grocery store and the benefits are cut off. So then you call the number when you get off work, right at five o'clock, you call the JFS and say, Hey, you know, I missed the, no fault on my own. How, what, what can I do to get back on? And you can't call at five o'clock. So what are you supposed to do? You know, you you've done everything you can, you're working, you know, the 20 hours a week, you meet the, you know, household income, eligibility guidelines, you're doing everything that you're supposed to do. And, you know, bureaucracy just gets in your way. Right. So that's, that's, what's, you know, really grounded my gears these days. Speaker 2 00:26:37 Yeah. I mean, that makes me think about, you know, what I feel like we were feeling really hopeful about. And I would like to think, I, you know, I, at least for my sakers, I'm still hopeful about that. We have learned and really, really absorbed the learnings about, um, some of our, up to now failures, not just in Ohio, but across the country. Um, you know, at the federal level to modernize access to public benefit programs, um, to recognize that this is we're well, well into the 21st century and our access to public benefits and family supporting programs should come along. And, you know, when you were talking about, um, the offline system and, you know, I I've heard myself moms as well share about, well, I'm not gonna walk a mile with my three month old in a stroller to go to an office to load, you know, $40 on my card so that I can go and have to buy a formula that my child has shown, um, not to prefer to reject, uh, like there's so much work to be done there. Speaker 2 00:27:51 Right. But, but getting to my point of, of finding energy and hope and optimism for how we can move forward, you know, we've seen lots of places in which we've learned and seen in real time time during the pandemic, how we can solve some of those modernization problems and streamline some of that bureaucracy to better serve people and better promote positive health outcomes. Like, you know, in our wo world with summer food service program, we've been talking for years ever since I got into this work about how we have hundreds of thousands of kids during the school year who rely on free reduced price meals, they get quality nutritious meals, um, often breakfast, as well as lunches Monday through Friday during the school year. Well, what happens on the weekend? What happens during the summer? Right? And during the pandemic, we got to see, it could look like if we were able to serve non congregate meals, meaning we could allow a working mom to come on a Monday after work and pick up a week's worth of lunches to bring home for her kids. Speaker 2 00:28:59 And like, that's not revolutionary, you know, we've been talking about how that would a solution like that could work for a long time. And then we got to test it in real time and see that, yes, we can make this work believe in us, trust us, trust us as providers, trust community members that they wanna do right by themselves and their families. And that it's all for the greater good. So that's where I'm still finding my hope, um, that we can take learnings from the pandemic and, and put them into P policy. Do you have something that's getting you energized? You know, where are you finding your hope right now? And what, you know, admittedly feels like a dark time. Speaker 3 00:29:35 Yeah. Do, this is a great question. Um, you know, honestly, when I have meetings, you know, I'm a lobbyist and you know, you are too, <laugh> why call myself the good kind. Right. Um, but when I have meetings with folks on both sides of the aisle, because I have to, right. Um, and they have the same reaction to whatever I'm presenting, right? So whether it's about moms and babies, whether it's like, you know, we gotta keep older adults fed, um, what, what, whatever it is, you know, that's, that's my hope. It's like, okay, I can meet with, you know, leader Russo and, um, you know, speaker cup or, you know, you know how it is at, at the, at the Ohio state house. And, you know, it's easy to feel these days, you know, we're, we are one of the most polarizing times in American history. Speaker 3 00:30:18 And when you turn on the news and you hear about critical race here, and you hear about mass arguments and you hear about school boards, you know, going awry, it's easy to think. And it's easy to believe we're at a place where, you know, the two major political parties in our country will never agree on anything again. And it's just not true. You know, I have been in meetings with people who have introduced some things that I definitely don't agree with. And then the next week they're like, Hey, um, let's do something on midwives or let's, you know, let's, uh, you know, expand Medicaid. You know, we were one of the first states to expand, uh, Medicaid for 12 months, for 12 months postpartum for women who would get just given birth on Medicaid. So we were one of the first states to do that. Speaker 3 00:30:59 And so this, this current general assembly, so in this same journal assembly that we're talking about, you know, critical race theory and all the other stuff that you hear on the news that gets the headlines right now, the Republicans are the majority in our state. And so that means that they too are also responsible for expanding, you know, Medicaid for a year after birth. Um, and that's huge. I mean, that's huge. And so I say that to say, it's easy to feel like there's no wins, easy to feel like we're at a loss and nobody's ever going to agree, and we're not gonna agree on anything. You know, like I said earlier, uh, there, it could be a war over, uh, road naming. It could be a war over, uh, water quality, but sometimes there's those days where you meet with people on both sides of the aisle and they both say, huh, okay. Speaker 3 00:31:41 Yeah, that makes sense. That makes sense. And, and you're like, oh, like I, I got 'em. I found, I found the, you know, I found the unicorn, I found the, the nugget that everyone can get behind. And so, and it happens more often than you think mm-hmm <affirmative>. Um, and I, I love that. I, I, I could think of that example really quickly about the 12 months Medicaid postpartum extension, that's gonna help 14,000 Ohio women, um, each, um, and that's huge and it's, it's wonderful. And it's amazing. And so I say that to say, it's not all bad. Speaker 2 00:32:10 Absolutely not all bad. There is a, as I think, I think you might have tweeted this earlier today or yesterday since that's how we communicate these days. Right. We're true. Millennials, wait, you're millennial or you're, Speaker 3 00:32:23 I'm in millennial, Speaker 2 00:32:25 I'm a grandma millennial. We're both millennials here. Speaker 3 00:32:28 I can't believe you accused me. Speaker 2 00:32:30 Yes. <laugh> folks. She has a long career history and somehow has barely been alive. Like, I don't know how she's done it all, but, um, I think you tweeted yesterday just simply the advocacy can and does work. Yeah. And, you know, we gotta hold onto that and you have, the proof is in the pudding. Um, we, we have some shared successes, um, to hang our hats on and, and lots more to work to together. So I'm glad have you, as a partner, um, and the center for community solutions, of course, um, at large as well, um, let's close just by acknowledging that like, we're all human beings, we're all flawed. We're not perfect advocates. We bring our own biases. We bring our own, you know, passion areas, our own sets of values, our own paired times. But, um, you talked about how you're able to kind of across various party lines and ideologies, identify with people as human beings and find common ground. So, you know, maybe that's the answer to this question and you've already given it, but I'd love if you would just give listeners an encouragement about what can we be doing in as advocates and as human beings, like in our conversations in our daily lives to reverse some of these trends that we've talked about and really show that we care for moms and babies. Speaker 3 00:33:50 Yeah. I think that's a great question, too. A few things, I think storytelling stories are powerful. And I think too often the, not these days, people like to speak on things that didn't necessarily happen to them, or they never actually experienced it just sounds good or sounds right. But we have to bring back stories and real life stories into the narrative. Like, has this happened to you? And if so, talk about it in that way. Um, like I, I started off by, you know, this conversation I saying I've never been pregnant. Right. And I can admit that, but I have had my own struggles and I have, you know, I can testify to, you know, the black women in my family who have struggled, but I have to be honest and upfront, you know, I have never been pregnant. So all of, you know, my information has come is informed by those who have, but, you know, I have to be honest about it. Speaker 3 00:34:36 So I think that, you know, storytelling and speaking on, you know, what you can actually speak on. I sometimes people have very strong opinions about things that don't affect them or don't happen to them. And they've never actually witnessed. I think that we see a lot of that these days, but also I think that, um, on that same note, um, is allowing the people who it's happening to, to inform the policy change. That doesn't necessarily mean that you're gonna be able to pull every snap beneficiary and every w beneficiary off the street and into, you know, the, the state house to testify. But, you know, we, as advocates have to make honest effort now more than ever to let you know the policies that we're pursuing, the recommendations that we're recommending, um, you know, whatever the case may be to be informed by the people, at least some people that actually happening to every single day. Speaker 3 00:35:24 And so I don't think we do enough of that work. Um, and I think that, um, those in public benefits advocacy can, can do, do more, I guess, than others. But I think even in the maternal and the health space, you know, we have to lift up the women who have experienced these adverse outcomes and allow them to tell their story and not always assume that we, that we are the one, the right ones to tell their story for whatever reason that may be, because we think, you know, only college graduates need to get up and, you know, go to the state house are only, you know, people who, you know, work and to have applied for a job, et cetera, et cetera, whatever the case may be like, we have to, you know, that's not working anymore. <laugh>, um, we need to hear from the actual people that it's happening to because so much gets lost in translation. Speaker 3 00:36:08 When we try to tell somebody's story for them. And also, and I'm sure this has happened to you in your time to worry, but sometimes we're just kind of advocates fighting for the wrong thing. You know, we think that, you know, the answer to all this is, you know, better notices or something like that, but really they don't care. The beneficiaries themselves don't care about the notices. What they care about is, you know, having more wick or snap retailers in their neighborhood. It's not that they don't care about the notices. They think the notices are just fine. And so sometimes listening to those did is it's how we need to shape our advocacy because sometimes you're just wasting our time. Right? Like, is some of this stuff actually gonna help anybody? No, but it doesn't make it us feel good. Yeah. So, no, we probably shouldn't be doing it. <laugh> um, because you know, nobody asks for this. So, um, I guess it's just like listening more than you speak. Um, I, I think it's, you know, um, bringing back the importance of storytelling and narrative, uh, shaping, I think that's about it. Speaker 2 00:37:06 Well, I, I think that leaves us with some real nuggets as advocates and, and listeners who are listening to the podcast to, to really think on, um, and Stu on and, and work toward. Um, so you talked about listening more than talking, and that's what we're gonna try to do more of as well. In this podcast, we continue to listen to experts like you, who are working every day in fields like this that are relevant to our work as anti-hunger anti-poverty advocates. And I'm just so grateful for your time to, with us. And more importantly for you as a friend and as a human being. And, um, just as someone that I know Ohio ones can trust in to work really with integrity on their behalf and in partnership with them. So thank you. Thank you. Hope Speaker 3 00:37:55 Thanks Speaker 1 00:38:06 Listeners. I know mother's day doesn't hit the same way for everyone. You might be struggling with infertility navigating your grief as a loss parent, coping with alienation from your own maternal figure or missing a mom. You lost too soon. I hope if you're listening that you feel a bit more seen to the moms working every day to do the best they can for their kids to make sure they're fed and loved. We are rooting for you. And we want you to know you're doing a great job. I also wanna acknowledge that hope lost her mom, Kathy Jean far too young. And just say to hope that I think she would be so proud of the work you are doing on behalf of moms across Ohio, vice president, Kamala Harris recently convened the first ever cabinet level meeting on maternal health. And she said, quote, during that meeting with secretaries who represent the biggest agencies in our federal government, we discuss the importance of seeing and treating women as whole human beings. We must understand mortality is not only a healthcare issue. It is also a housing issue, a transportation issue, an environmental issue. And similarly, let's continue to take on issues through a whole government and cross sector lens so we can address the downstream hardships, but also the root causes of those hardships. We'll talk to you next time.

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