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Sustaining journalism in a pandemic: ‘We need each other’

CIMAZoomMeetingLaugh...

Members of the Chicago Independent Media Alliance share a laugh during a recent Zoom event to promote the organization. CIMA recently raised more than $160,000 for its member news organizations with a fundraiser that had been planned for 2021 but was bumped way up the calendar because of the impacts the COVID-19 pandemic was having on their revenue.

 

Fast-tracked fundraiser generates $160K-plus for Chicago media outlets

By CHRISTOPHER HEIMERMAN
For Illinois Press Association

CHICAGO – The writing has long been on the wall for plucky, vital weekly newspapers: If new revenue streams aren’t created, the light that media outlets shine on their communities, many of them underserved, will be dimmed if not put out altogether.

Tracy Baim, a legendary journalist who co-founded her first publication in the city in 1985, is the publisher of the Chicago Reader, which has covered the city with a unique literary voice and a fine focus on the arts. Unearthing corruption is a hallmark of the Reader, as well.

“We’ve seen corruption increase, and scandals and politicians that have gone unchallenged,” Baim said. “Corruption loves when newspapers die.”

Seeing the plight of her publications – she also owns the Windy City Times – and her colleagues throughout the city, she hatched an idea last year to form an alliance that would unite outlets in the spirit of collaborating and, in turn, becoming more viable.

The kickstarting initiative for what would become the Chicago Independent Media Alliance, was a mass fundraiser that would happen in 2021.

Then the pandemic hit, and Baim buried the accelerator on a project that was rolling along at a comfortable pace. A website needed to be built, just one of several proverbial plates that needed to start spinning.

“I was really worried it wasn’t going to play out,” Baim said. “Lots of things could go wrong, so all I could think of was the worst-case scenarios. There was a lot of stress because of all the need that was there at a very scary time, and we had three weeks to get ready to launch.”

Not only did it play out; the public donated more than $100,000 – about $40,000 more than the goal. Additionally, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, The Joyce Foundation, the Joseph & Bessie Feinberg Foundation, the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation and two anonymous foundations matched funds to the tune of $60,000.

“It’s honestly way more than we could have expected,” said Yong Lee, marketing manager for the Korea Times which, like the Reader, has been in business since 1971.

He said the Times, which prints in Korean only and serves about 10,000 readers, received about $8,000 from the fundraiser.

Baim said the alliance plans to develop ways for the outlets to raise funds individually, but also as a collective. In the meantime, those looking to support local media may find a list of all 43 outlets at the campaign’s website, savechicagomedia.org.

 

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Yazmin Dominguez (Credit: GlitterGuts)

 

Fast-riser helms rapid-fire rollout

Baim said the only concerns with the launch were technological. Most notably, the website needed to be built and launched. She otherwise was confident because she had a rising star in Yazmin Dominguez, who’d joined the Reader less than a year ago as an administrative assistant and risen to the role of media partnerships coordinator in six short months. She became the project coordinator of CIMA.

She contacted about 160 local organizations, the list was narrowed to 103, and eventually the alliance had 62 members, 43 of which participated in the fundraiser.

“She masterfully herded cats,” said Charlie Meyerson, who has worked in Chicago media since 1979 and launched the independent news site Chicago Public Square in January 2017. “I’ve been very impressed with the way Yazmin kept the wheels on the tracks.”

“Impressive is not enough,” Lee said. “There has to be another word to describe the awesomeness of how she pulled this off.”

Dominguez said many publications lost 90 percent of their advertising revenue “overnight” – including the Reader, where that loss was more than $250,000.

Ron Roenigk is publisher of Inside Publications, which features three papers on the North Side: Skyline, Inside Booster and News-Star. Much of its revenue vanished along with its summer activity guide.

“Until this year, we had a North Side summer activity guide, and now since there’s no activity, there’s no guide,” he said during one of three Facebook Live videos Dominguez moderated in the last week of the fundraiser, a last-ditch push that she said drove up donations significantly.

Baim said two-thirds of the fundraiser’s donors asked that their contributions be split among the 43 outlets.

“I was pleasantly surprised,” she said. “That really shows that people wanted to support a strong journalism ecosystem.”

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Jesus Del Toro, director general of La Raza Newspaper, has worked in local media for 16 years, since moving to the U.S. from Mexico. He’s seen damning signs of the times. So while the funds raised can only help, he’s optimistic for what the alliance can mean for local media’s sustainability.

“The most important thing is that the fundraiser is the first step toward a much wider benefit, given the struggle of local media,” he said. “We needed a transformation of the local media model. We need to show advertisers the value of our product, and that they need to preserve it. The fundraiser helped, but of course what’s more valuable is what will happen in the long run, with collaboration and a unified front.”

 

A future built on trust

It’s a scary place these days. Revenue was dwindling before the pandemic, and the rise of armchair journalists has hamstrung the industry with fake news, Baim said.

In 2019, the Chicago Defender closed its legacy print paper and the weekly Latinx paper Hoy has been shut down by the Tribune.

“We knew before COVID that journalism wasn’t in the best shape in Chicago,” Dominguez said. “A lot of newsrooms are closing – a lot of papers we really admired. We knew we had to do something about it.”

Baim said she’s relieved that, thus far, no CIMA member has had to close its doors or cease production.

Meyerson said media outlets, large ones in particular, have long used the term right-sizing – “which means layoffs, basically,” he said – but like it or not, it’s reality. What’s yet to be seen is what that right size is for the media landscape at large.

“Is it going to be the big companies shrinking, or the small companies growing?” Meyerson said. “This is an opportunity for small, digital organizations to grow. That’s what I love about this campaign. This was a chance for those small organizations to grow. And for the bigger organizations, like the Reader, their audiences can be convinced to get involved monetarily in ways they weren’t before.”

“The fundraiser gives hope for news outlets like ours,” Lee said. “It was completely built on trust. And we don’t even know each other, but we have the same mission.”

“The communities that are most affected, their papers tell a unique story, in an authentic way than the mainstream has never been able to do,” Baim said. “I’m an evangelist for local media of any kind. It could be the only paper in a rural area, or a paper that serves the black, Asain or LGBTQ community. The papers are part of their ecosystem.”

Baim said evidence of fast-built trust is encouraging, given that the alliance was spearheaded by the Reader specifically.

“It’s kind of an odd duck when an alliance is created by one of its members, to have one paper raising money for another paper,” she said. “But we all needed to survive. We need each other.”

 

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The power of good

Baim said feel-good stories do more than make readers … well … feel good. She said showcasing the hard work businesses, nonprofit organizations and individuals are putting in to better their communities creates a contagious buzz of good will. And having local media eager to preach the gospel of good not only engenders trust, it strengthens all parties involved.

“We don’t just tell the stories when they’re bad. We tell the stories when they’re good,” Baim said. “When you tell a story about a business, a nonprofit, there are many residual benefits to that. You develop partnerships and allies.”

Dominguez is proud, but not satisfied with the alliance’s immediate success.

“This has been attempted many times in the past, alliances of this sort in Chicago media,” she said. “Now we have a lot of public attention. CIMA is such a baby project right now, and the fundraiser put us in the public eye. Two months ago, only the Chicago Reader and member outlets knew about the alliance.”

A key goal going forward is to create a pooled journalism fund featuring multiple funding streams, including public and private foundations, private donors, and government.

More than half of the alliance’s members are unable to offer insurance to their full-time employees, so a pooled insurance fund for Chicago-area journalists – full-timers and freelancers alike – is in the works.

“We have way bigger goals for 2021,” Dominguez said. “This is just the beginning.”

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Press Releases

Illinois State Bar Association announces
Rural Practice Fellowship Program fellows
 


May 6, 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Rhys Saunders, senior manager of communications
rsaunders@isba.org

217-747-1433
 

Editors: Please note local interest.

The Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA) is pleased to announce the names of the 14 Fellows selected to participate in the 2021 Rural Practice Fellowship Program, which is designed to meet the critical need of providing access to justice for those living in rural areas with a declining lawyer population.

“We were extremely pleased with the overwhelming response to this program from throughout the state of Illinois,” said ISBA President Dennis J. Orsey. “The demand far exceeded our first-year expectations.”

The ISBA Special Committee on the Rural Practice Initiative created two fellowship programs to address the issue.

The Rural Practice Summer Fellows Program connects law students with rural practitioners to give them experience working in rural communities before they leave law school. The program includes a $5,000 fellowship stipend and mentoring.

The Rural Practice Associate Fellows Program places graduating law students and new attorneys as permanent associates with rural practitioners. The program includes a $5,000 stipend at the beginning of employment, and an additional $5,000 stipend if the associate is still working for the same firm after one year.

2021 Summer Fellows:

Fellow: Jacquelin Pulak (Northern Illinois University College of Law)
Firm: Berger Law Firm, LLC, Byron, Illinois (Ogle County)

Fellow: Alex Pullen (University of Illinois College of Law)
Firm: McGrath Law Office, P.C., Mackinaw, Illinois (Tazewell County)

Fellow: Emily Wiedeman (Loyola University Chicago School of Law)
Firm: Heller, Holmes & Associates, P.C., Mattoon, Illinois (Coles County)

Fellow: Avery Lubbes (Saint Louis University School of Law)
Firm: Stumpf & Gutknecht, P.C., Columbia, Illinois (Monroe County)

2021 Associate Fellows:

Fellow: Paul Loss Dunham (University of Illinois)
Firm: Becker Law Office, Genoa, Illinois (DeKalb County)

Fellow: Glenn Hoskin (Loyola University Chicago)
Firm: Tobin & Ramon, Belvidere, Illinois (Boone County)

Fellow: Tristyn Criswell (Northern Illinois University)
Firm: The Cosentino Law Firm, St. Charles, Illinois (DeKalb County)

Fellow: Staci Vazquez (Northern Illinois University)
Firm: Malmquist, Geiger & Durkee LLC, Morris, Illinois (Grundy County)

Fellow: Elizabeth Reynolds (Southern Illinois University)
Firm: Jacob J. Frost, Attorney at Law, Spring Valley, Illinois (Bureau County)

Fellow: Tiffany Ketchum (Southern Illinois University)
Firm: Vawter Law Ltd., Macomb, Illinois (McDonough County)

Fellow: Megan Ryan (University of Mississippi)
Firm: Rammelkamp Bradney, P.C., Jacksonville, Illinois (Morgan County)

Fellow: Jacob Schlosser (Saint Louis University)
Firm: Woods & Bates, P.C., Lincoln, Illinois (Logan County)

Fellow: Edward Siemer (Saint Louis University)
Firm: McDevitt, Osteen, Chojnicki & Deters, LLC, Effingham, Illinois (Effingham County)

Fellow: Parker Louis Seely (Saint Louis University)
Firm: Bigham, Tanner & Foster, Pinckneyville, Illinois (Perry County)
 

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Serving people with disabilities in Illinois


April 27, 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: John Herring, executive director, Illinois Network of Centers for Independent Living
101 W. Old State Capitol Plaza
Suite 501
Springfield, IL 62701

217-525-1308
john.herring@illinoiscils.org
 

Illinois Network of Centers for Independent Living is a network of people with various disabilities who connect statewide. The 22 Centers for Independent Living that make up INCIL share information, skills and experiences. While supporting each other, barriers to inclusion are removed and Independence achieved. People acquire methods to remain in their home and many financially trapped in nursing facilities are freed.

INCIL has been connecting people who have disabilities statewide since 1995. It is the hub for Independent Living services, while monitoring and educating our state about disability issues. All these organizations are “consumer controlled” run by and for people with disabilities. Each center is responsive to their communities’ needs and INCIL brings people together in this network of cross disability purpose with strength from unity. For more information call 217-525-1308 or go to INCIL.org.

 


 

 
 

 

Alliance For Climate Education launches
billboard campaign to grow support for passing
the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA)

 


April 21, 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Leah Qusba, executive director, Alliance For Climate Education (ACE)

262-880-8661
leah@acespace.org

CHICAGO – This week, the Alliance for Climate Education (ACE) is launching a billboard campaign to create awareness about the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA) and mobilize Illinoisans to take action to demand that the Illinois General Assembly and Governor Pritzker pass CEJA in 2021. As we face the dual crises of the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change driven by fossil fuel consumption, it is a critical moment to pass CEJA to help Illinois get positioned for the renewable energy revolution and to bring thousands of clean jobs to Illinois residents.

ACE’s mix of digital and vinyl billboards have been placed in prominent neighborhood and highway locations in the Chicago and Springfield areas, encouraging passersby to take action by going to: PassCEJA.com or “Text CEJA to 42108”. A total of 11 billboards – seven billboards in the Chicago area and four in Springfield – are now viewable.

The Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA) is a comprehensive climate and energy bill that centers on equity and puts Illinois on track to achieve 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. Here’s how passing CEJA will make Illinois a leader in the just transition to renewable energy:

● Creates a path for 100% renewable energy in IL (17,000 MW solar/6,300 MW wind)
● Directs resources and support to BIPOC energy sector workers and contractors
● Invests $2B in clean energy for BIPOC, low income,and environmental justice communities
● Provides $50M/yr in rate relief to low-income consumers
● Puts Illinoisans to work building and maintaining clean energy infrastructure
● Saves consumers $700M/yr through expansions of electric and gas energy efficiency programs
● Supports electrifying the equivalent of 1.2M vehicles by 2030 including public transit & fleets
● Provides electric vehicle (EV) rebates and EV access for low-income communities
● Makes utility profits contingent upon making the grid more affordable, clean, and equitable

The billboards will be visible through the month of April and into early May, mobilizing support for passing the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA) while April “Earth Day” month brings our public attention to the climate crisis and opportunities for taking action to ensure a livable planet for generations to come.

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More About Alliance for Climate Education (ACE): ACE’s mission is to educate young people about the science of climate change and empower them to take action. We believe that young people have the power to tip the scales toward just climate solutions that match the scale and urgency of the climate crisis. ACE’s strength is in our work at the intersection of youth, climate, and democracy, taking an integrated approach across all of our programs to empower young people to become effective civic engagement and climate advocacy leaders.

A sample of the billboard creative:

 

 


 

 

Illinois Farm Bureau to fund Illinois Press Foundation grants to student journalism programs

 

April 16, 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Jeff Rogers, Illinois Press Foundation director

217-241-1300, ext. 286

jrogers@illinoispress.org

 

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois Farm Bureau will be the financial sponsor of this year’s Illinois Press Foundation mini-grants program that assists existing media programs at public and private high schools throughout the state.

 

Selected schools receive grants of up to $1,500 from the Illinois Press Foundation to pay for a computer, software or other equipment needed for a high school’s student media program to produce print or online newspapers. School media programs will be receiving application information Monday, with requests due on or before May 14. Funds or equipment will be received in September.

 

“We’re excited to have Illinois Farm Bureau as a partner in this effort,” Illinois Press Foundation Director Jeff Rogers said. “Both of our organizations feel passionate about the opportunity to help young journalist and student news organizations.”

 

The mini-grants program will provide funding or equipment to as many as 15 high school media programs.

 

“Illinois Farm Bureau is really excited to be a part of program that will assist Illinois high school students in developing their writing and reporting skills while also sharing the news of their school,” said Chris Magnuson, executive director of Illinois Farm Bureau’s News and Communication division. “These types of hands-on opportunities typically create future career goals, and it’s exciting to think that some of these students could one day help tell agriculture and rural America’s story.”

 

Jerry Reppert, president of the Illinois Press Foundation Board, called Illinois Farm Bureau’s sponsorship “great news,” and added the mini-grants program has always been special to him.

 

For more information about the Illinois Press Foundation’s mini-grants program, email Rogers at jrogers@illinoispress.org.

 

The Illinois Farm Bureau is a member of the American Farm Bureau Federation, a national organization of farmers and ranchers. Founded in 1916, IFB is a non-profit, membership organization directed by farmers who join through their county Farm Bureau. IFB has a total membership of more than 378,237 and a voting membership of 77,909. IFB represents three out of four Illinois farmers.

 

The Illinois Press Foundation is dedicated to promoting and protecting free expression through educational activities that foster the practice and respect of First Amendment principles and values, to enhance the quality of services provided by newspapers to their communities, and to support reading and literacy efforts.

 

The IPF was established in 1982 as the charitable arm of the Illinois Press Association.

 

Its news service, Capitol News Illinois, has provided daily coverage of state government for Illinois’ newspapers since it was formed in 2019.

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Partners in Recovery:
Sangamon County Recovery Oriented System of Care
 


April 8, 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Teagan Shull,

217-544-9858, ext. 3108
tshull@fgcinc.org

(Springfield) – Systems of recovery have been forming across the state of Illinois. The goals of these systems?  To support recovery. Family Guidance Centers, Inc. (FGC), a not-for-profit behavioral health care organization that treats and prevents substance use disorders, as well as an array of other behavioral health care concerns, received a grant to create a recovery oriented system of care (ROSC) right here in Sangamon County. What does a ROSC do?

ROSC is a coordinated network of community-based services and supports that is person-centered and builds on the strengths and resiliencies of individuals, families, and communities to achieve recovery and improved health, wellness, and quality of life for those with or at risk of substance use disorders. The central focus of a ROSC is to create an infrastructure, or “system of care”, with the resources to effectively address the full range of substance use disorders within communities. These goals include:  

* Building a culture that builds and nurtures recover
* Building capacity and infrastructure to support a recovery-oriented system of care;
* Developing commitment to implement and sustain a recovery-oriented system of care.


“The goal of a ROSC is to create a system that works for individuals in recovery. This means that individuals in recovery have access to the resources and support they need. Recovery is a lifelong journey not just a 28-day program and individuals, their families and the community all need to work together to support that journey,” said Tegan Shull, program manager of Sangamon County ROSC. “Currently the council is working on conducting a community needs assessment and developing educational materials to facilitate conversations in the community about recovery and start reducing the stigma that surrounds substance use disorders. Recovery truly takes a village and affects the entire community”

"The current system of care is complex and often poses barriers versus points of access. Individuals and family members struggle to navigate services that are disjointed and often times stigmatizing. Sangamon County needs a connected system with multiple points of access to treatment and recovery services,” said Trenda Hedges, manager of Wellness and Recovery Operations for Beacon Health Options. “The phrase ‘nothing about us without us’ has been the chant of individuals in recovery for decades. ROSC creates the opportunity for the voices of those most affected by substance use and misuse to be heard and implemented into a system of care that supports recovery."

Sangamon County Partners in Recovery (ROSC) meets monthly and all are invited to attend. If you or your organization would like to get involved, visit the ROSC website at Sangamon County Partners in Recovery (godaddysites.com) or email Teagan Shull at tshull@fgcinc.org.
 

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120 N 11th St., Springfield, IL 62703, (217) 544-9858
Website: Sangamon County Partners in Recovery (godaddysites.com)
Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/SangCoROSC

 
 

 

Illinois midwife bill passes
House Health Care Licensing Committee
 


March 29, 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Bukola M. Bello

773-644-1714


After a decades-long fight, a bill to license certified professional midwives in Illinois passed the Illinois House of Representatives Health Care Licensing Committee March 24, 2021.

The bill grants a state license for midwives to assist in safe home births if they attain professional midwife certification, a nationally recognized credential.

The bill has been a long time coming. Variations of this bill have been brought before the legislature nearly every year since the late 1970s. In that same time, 35 states and Washington D.C. have granted licenses to certified professional midwives, many of which also cover the cost through state Medicaid programs.

Nearly 1,000 families in Illinois choose to give birth at home every year. These families may choose to do so due to cultural, philosophical or religious reasons, or because of fear related to trauma and racism.The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increased demand for out-of-hospital maternity care providers. Most people seeking out-of-hospital births this year have been left to navigate a market of underground midwives, which offers no state regulated protections for consumers.

People of color also face much higher risk of maternal mortality and other complications than their white counterparts. A recent National Academy of Engineering, Medicine, and Sciences' Birth Settings in America Report indicated that racism not race  is a risk that contributes to poorer outcomes for birthing people of color. Proponents of the bill believe that providing the people of Illinois more access to safe, licensed maternity care providers outside the hospital system can help address this problem.

Isis Rose, a Black mother, anthropologist, birth professional and home birth advocate, of Urbana, Illinois, told Illinois House Health Care Licensing Committee members that she chooses to birth at home because here in Illinois, Black women are six times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women.” The disproportionately high rates of negative pregnancy and birth outcomes for black birthing people of color, coined “obstetric racism” by anthropologist Dana-Ain Davis, is the primary reason she and her husband choose to have their babies at home with a certified professional midwife. She relayed that “for all people, especially Black birthing people, to feel comfortable choosing home birth, we need increased access to legal channels of midwifery and greater access to home birth midwives with congruent cultural backgrounds and lived experiences.”

In addressing these numerous issues, the Certified Professional Midwife Practice Act (HB 3401) will regulate the professional conduct of home birth midwives in Illinois by establishing a Midwifery Board and setting rigorous standards for practice; require midwives to meet educational standards supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; regulate the use of life-saving medications and treatments for mothers and newborns to ensure high-quality care for parent and child; allow midwives to screen for possible complications and conditions such as congenital heart defects and hearing disabilities; establish a safe system to transfer care during rare emergencies; and mandate informed consent forms to meet established standards.

Carrie Vickery, of Ottawa, Illinois, and vice president of Illinois Friends of Midwives, a group advocating and lobbying for broader access to midwifery care in Illinois, told state legislators during a March 24, 2021, hearing that the state of Illinois is failing in its duty to appropriately regulate home birth midwifery.

"Each year of delay in licensing and integrating home birth midwives puts consumers at risk," Vickery said. "We are telling you: protect us. Give us licensed certified professional midwives."

Hearing this call, the committee passed the bill with a unanimous vote, and the bill is expected to be brought to the House floor for a vote sometime later this session.

The bill's sponsors in the Illinois House of Representatives are state Reps. Rep.Robyn Gabel (D, Evanston), Anna Moeller (D, Elgin), Michelle Mussman (D, Schaumburg) William Davis (D, East Hazel Crest),Terra Costa-Howard (D, Lombard), Norine K. Hammond (R, Macomb), Kelly M. Cassidy (D, Chicago), Bob Morgan (D, Highwood), LaToya Greenwood (D, East St. Louis), Amy Grant (R, Wheaton), Lance Yednock (D, Ottawa), Steven Reick (R, Woodstock), Daniel Didech (D, Buffalo Grove), Michael T. Marron (R, Danville), Maurice A. West, II (D, Rockford), Thomas Morrison (R, Palatine), Rita Mayfield (D, Waukegan), Michael Halpin (D, Rock Island), Kathleen Willis (D, Northlake), Brad Halbrook (R, Shelbyville), Edgar Gonzalez, Jr. (D, Summit), Mark Batinick (R, Plainfield), Randy E. Frese (R, Quincy), Theresa Mah (D, Chicago), Margaret Croke (D, Chicago), Stephanie A. Kifowit (D, Aurora), Janet Yang Rohr (D, Naperville), Lindsey LaPointe (D, Chicago) and Suzanne Ness (D, Carpentersville).


 

receive recognition for their accomplishments”.

FCCLA’s 75thanniversary is a major milestone for the organization and FCS education. Whether one is looking to feel confident in the kitchen, make a difference in their community, or prepare for career success, FCCLA and FCS is the secret ingredient to succeed in the home and workplace.

Research Sources:

Tufts University: https://www.nutritionletter.tufts.edu/general-nutrition/28-of-americans-cant-cook

WZDX Fox: https://www.rocketcitynow.com/article/news/what-ever-happened-to-home-ec-millennials-struggling-with-home-and-nutrition-skills/525-7f8fd87d-2134-408f-909b-4687ba46b496

About FCCLA

Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) is a dynamic and effective national student organization that helps young men and women become leaders and address important personal, family, work, and societal issues through Family and Consumer Sciences education. FCCLA has more than182,000 members and 5,253 chapters from 48 state associations, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.


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Disaster Checklist for Newspapers

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