How I Reported the Story: Marigold Market Among Farmers Markets Working to Make Fresh Produce More Accessible

Read how reporters Irene Wright and Foster Steinbeck wrote this feature for the Athens Banner-Herald: Marigold Market among the farmers markets working to make fresh produce more accessible.

Irene Wright is a graduate student studying health and medical journalism at the University of Georgia.

Irene Wright:

I started at the University of Georgia in fall 2017 and over the past five years I’ve attended countless farmers markets, arts festivals and pop-up shops. I grew up in Wisconsin where farmer’s markets were a regular part of my weekend. Stands would show up on street corners, around banks and at my summer league swim meets, never with a shortage of large and healthy-looking vegetables and produce. When I saw that Athens had a similar farm-to-table culture, I felt right at home. 

It wasn’t until I started graduate school in the Health and Medical Journalism program and stripped down to a much stricter budget that I started to think about the cost of the clearly superior, at least in my mind, fruits and vegetables compared to what was sitting on the Kroger shelves. There are ongoing conversations across the country and in Athens about health equity, and I wondered how access to healthy food played into that conversation. 

Around the time that I was thinking about these questions, the Georgia state SNAP program increased their benefits. In October 2021 the benefits increased by $36/month per household, meaning that many Athens families had more money each month to spend on their household needs. But how important was it for people, and children, to eat fresh fruits and vegetables regularly?

I reached out to nutritional scientist Sina Gallo from the University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences. Gallo specializes in nutrition in children, particularly vitamin-D which can come from sunlight or from fruits and vegetables. We spoke about the benefits both short and long-term for healthy food consumption. Gallo said that not only is it important for kids to eat healthy for their day-to-day health, but it can help prevent chronic diseases that would put medical and financial stress on them later in life, as well as on the healthcare system. Eating healthy could be considered preventative medicine, not just something your mom tells you to do at the dinner table. 

I thought back to the farmer’s markets. Were they actually accessible to low-income families that use SNAP benefits, or was it just a bunch of college kids like me who wanted to eat something other than Ramen or Chick-fil-a? 

I found Wholesome Wave Georgia, a nonprofit that partners with farmer’s markets around the state to match SNAP benefits to combat food insecurity, childhood and adult obesity, and diet-related illness. I spoke with the manager of the ‘Fresh for Less’ program, Alex Duncan, that incentivizes families to use their SNAP benefits at a farmer’s market instead of the grocery store by doubling their purchase power. Duncan says they saw a 56% increase in the number of families that were using their program in 2020, a great success in her eyes. 

After spending weekends at farmer’s markets and weeks talking with people that use SNAP and benefit from them, I pitched the story to Covering Poverty. I was partnered with another student, and we combined our research and storytelling for a piece that was published in the Athens Banner-Herald in April. 

Foster Steinbeck:

Foster Steinbeck is a fourth-year journalism student at The University of Georgia.

I first caught wind of the underutilization of SNAP funds while working on a different story. I was compiling pictures at the Timothy Baptist Church’s Food Pantry for the Journalism Writing Lab’s service journalism piece documenting local resources for homeless individuals. I talked with one of the intake volunteers. She told me how a big part of her work outside the pantry is connecting people to SNAP resources because not enough people are aware of its availability. And when I got to talking with local farmers’ markets about Wholesome Wave’ Georgia’s Fresh for Less program, I saw the connection immediately. I interviewed a deputy commissioner in the Georgia Department of Family and Child Services about SNAP’s reach across the state. While the department does not track the total number of people eligible, I obtained their SNAP data, showing how only 15,000 people in Athens-Clarke County are registered for SNAP benefits. Working on this story reinforced the importance of in-person reporting, that a reporter’s physical presence can queue them into facts and information they would be ignorant of otherwise.

Q&A: Journalist Cathrine Gyldensted on Avoiding a Victimizing Lens

Cathrine Gyldensted, investigative journalist. Credit: Robin Skjoldborg.

Cathrine Gyldensted is an investigative journalist, author and expert on solutions journalism, a holistic approach that centers on responses to issues rather than the problems themselves. Her book, “From Mirrors to Movers,” is a practical guide to the five elements of solutions journalism, where she discusses moving away from using a victimizing lens when writing about people experiencing hardship.

Covering Poverty asked Gyldensted about how journalists can avoid bias and let their sources guide the story.

Questions and answers have been edited for clarity.

CP: You write about how your interview with somebody who was experiencing homelessness made you shift away from a victimizing narrative. Can you tell me about when you made that shift? 

CG: It is a pivotal moment in this work. And it’s the reason why I was steering away from the classical methods that I had been taught, and that I had mastered. 

I was based in the U.S. from 2007 to 2011 as a correspondent, and in 2008, we had a global recession that started here in the U.S. My editors back home (at Danish Broadcasting) wanted me to do a radio piece reporting from a shelter in Washington, D.C., called Martha’s Table. And I had interviews with people working there, the director of the shelter, and of course, also people directly influenced by the recession, people who live there. A woman in her 50s was a particularly good interview in terms of being very reflective and very thoughtful on what has happened to her. And she was talking to me about how hard it had been to lose her job first and then not being able to pay her bills, and then to also lose her home. And now she was living in that shelter. So that was a great interview, I thought, sitting there with my recorder, because she was willing to be so honest. 

But then suddenly, she said, “But I’ve also learned something.” And I remember thinking, “Should I pursue that lead?” Or should I just be happy with the part of the interview I already had? But I asked her, “What have you learned?” 

And then out came these fascinating, thoughtful, moving answers, like that she had been on a personal journey, and now understood that she was internally stronger than she thought she was, and had worked with her own pride and had asked for help and gotten it from strangers. And the last thing she said was that she had gotten closer to her son through this hardship. So suddenly, the interview had this whole new dimension that has to do with you could say, inspiration, resources and learning. And not just how hard everything was, and how terrible everything was. And the angle was about people experiencing hardship during the recession. But she’s telling me something else. So how do I stay true to that person’s story? And can I still be able to keep that angle? 

My editor said, “I don’t care — just keep the facts and the latest numbers from the latest report on the recession and homeless numbers in the U.S. And use the interview so it’s representative.” So I worked on getting pieces from the victim part of the interview, but also two pieces from the more meaningful and inspirational part. 

It would have been much easier to just stay in that well-known victim narrative, because it doesn’t really point anywhere else than what is expected. But I was able to end the story with one of the pieces from the more inspirational part. And the response from listeners the day after it was broadcast was pretty remarkable. And this was before social media, and I got 10 or 11 emails from listeners saying things like, “This made me stop and listen, and it was meaningful, and I was moved.” 

That collective experience made me realize that I had violated a foundational principle and why I wanted to be a journalist: to be accurate. But I wasn’t accurate in a psychological sense. Because if you see sources through a specific lens, like a bad guy, a crook, politician with evil intent, or a homeless person, that’s the victim, then you carry this bias with you. And that’s going to influence the questions you ask and how you frame people. From then onward, I really just tried to work with those biases and blind angles. 

What areas and topics could journalists focus on in the interview process that would help them shift away from the narrative that the people they’re covering are victims?

Before heading out to the interviews of homeless people I would first of all realize some of these things and ask myself: What rings true to you? What makes sense to you? And what was the starting lens that I would see this person through? And write that down. And then I would ask myself: What am I missing when I see the person like this? And then write that down. And then just decide to ask questions that’s going to activate the missing pieces. 

But it’s important to have the truth, which is also hardship. And then expand the interview to possible inspiration, learning, strength and meaning. But I would just ask myself: What am I possibly missing when I see the person through this lens? And then write down some questions that would activate or harness that missing information. 

Can you also talk about how constructive journalism/solutions journalism applies to stories about homelessness and poverty, as well?

I think that’s really a fundamental way to expand our reporting through the questions we ask because it’s such a foundational thing in journalism, and therefore we harness information and generate people’s thinking on topics. And when we have these answers, we put them in our stories, and then it generates reflection in society. So I think it’s a very fundamental place to start. And number two, you might have another kind of pile of information that’s gonna distort the angle you thought you had, so I would determine the angle later based on the interviews.

So let your sources drive your narrative.

Yeah. Because what happens when we have the angle beforehand? We pick and choose the sources that are going to confirm that angle.

Is that a conversation that you could bring up with your editor? How would you do that?

My experience is that the more my editor trusts me, the more free range I get. 

If you can argue along the lines of, you know, what creates quality journalism, then you would probably reach the heart of many editors. But what they need to feel secure on is that you come back with something that they can use.

But it does take some standing up to the usual dynamics of how news and news work is done, and propose it in another way. This Dutch online media called De Correspondent, who does it the bottom-up style, where the journalists would write an article saying, “I’m thinking about writing about homelessness. What do you think the story is? I think the story is this, but what do you, my readers, think that the story is?” And they had a lot of input and a very active community of readers because of this approach. And then the reporter writes another story based on the feedback from their users saying, I thought the story was A but now I got this qualified input. So it’s not only going out and getting all the information and then writing the end result. They’re sharing the learning curve of their reporters and of the topic. 

Is there anything else that you feel like we didn’t talk about that is important for Covering Poverty readers to know about this topic?

One of the elements under that constructive journalistic umbrella is a very practical little tool: Zoom out from the story topic and look at the data. Are we looking at progress or setbacks on the topic? If it’s homelessness, look at the data from the last 30 years. And make sure that you apply that factual thing into your story. And of course, if it is a setback, then it’s a setback. If it’s progress, you should also put that in the story. Because if you can report on homelessness in Athens, there might be progress somewhere else in the U.S. on homelessness, and that would be an interesting detail to add. It’s not going to kill your story in Athens, but it’s going to spark some interest in what they are doing elsewhere that is going well. And that’s a follow-up story and a positive outlier. And that Zooming out process makes you realize that.

Kyra Posey is a graduate student studying journalism at the University of Georgia.

Disability and the Media: How Inspiration Stories Perpetuate Stereotype

Reporters seek to report with sensitivity and care to avoid perpetuating stereotypes, and while discussing issues related to disability and poverty, there are a few ways to ensure you avoid reporting vapid inspiration stories. 

New York Times reporting fellow Amanda Morris remembers the time when Starbucks opened a Signing Store in 2018 to provide employment opportunities for Deaf and hard-of-hearing people. Her friends sent her articles on the subject, remarking how “cool” it was, she writes in an article for the Times. 

“As a hard-of-hearing woman, I saw it differently: Although I was happy to learn that Starbucks was trying to be more inclusive, to me, hiring people with disabilities isn’t a big news story — and neither is a corporation making one store accessible to deaf and hard-of-hearing customers. I felt that the real story was how some of those workers had master’s degrees, yet they had trouble finding jobs elsewhere because of their disability,” she writes for the Times. She went on to write about this topic in a two-part series for NPR

Articles about people with disabilities might focus on an instance like the Starbucks opening while ignoring larger systemic issues, and might depict people with disabilities as exceptional in situations that would not be newsworthy if a nondisabled person was in the same position, such as a story about a teen couple with Down’s syndrome being voted prom king and queen in the BBC. 

These stories, often called “inspiration porn” as coined by Australian disability activist Stella Young, might inspire pity, share a moral message, and might objectify disabled people. Though well-intentioned, these stories “reduce disabled people’s lives into simplistic narratives about overcoming barriers to do ordinary things” and depict their disability as the major part of their identity, Morris writes.

“People with disabilities are so trained over the years that they see their disability label become so much of their identity,” says Joe Sarra, an advocate with Georgia Advocacy Office, which aims to advocate for people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities. “And of course it is, but it shouldn’t be the first thing. That shouldn’t be what is the first thing that people talk about or what comes to mind.” 

Stories that depict people with disabilities doing ordinary things as extraordinary might create a feeling of pity for people with disabilities. In a 2014 TEDx talk, activist Young said stories like this intend to motivate nondisabled people, so they can sit back and think, “however bad my life is, it could be worse. I could be that person.” 

These stories also often overlook greater systemic and societal forces that create barriers for people with disabilities. These feel-good stories ignore the social failings that are affecting people with disabilities.  

Doug Crandell, a member of the public service faculty with the Institute on Human Development and Disability at the University of Georgia, says people like to read and watch feel-good stories, such as someone opening a college acceptance letter or participating in a 100-yard dash, because it’s difficult to learn about those social failings. 

“I think it’s important to us as Americans, because we kind of know we don’t make good public policy,” Crandell says. “It’s a lot about this reckoning moment in our culture, and who’s in control and who gets the narrative. And I think that makes us feel really comfortable when we see that inspiration stuff, because we don’t have to question public policy.”

Steps to ensure better disability coverage 

It is important to note that there is no surefire checklist to follow because “inspiration porn” is subjective, but employing some best practices can aid your reporting.

  1. Andrew Pulrang for Forbes writes about practices to employ to avoid writing inspiration porn, and he writes that stories about disability should always include ideas, impressions, and/or direct quotations from people with disabilities. “If meaningful inclusion of disabled people isn’t possible, then don’t do the story.”

    People with disabilities should also be a fundamental part of the storytelling process. Crandell oversees the Tell the Valued Story project from UGA’s Institute on Human Development and Disability, which aims to collaborate with the media and state agencies to eradicate stereotypes about people with disabilities. A staff of six story auditors with lived experience and who are trained in social role valorization provide feedback on stories, articles, videos and agency communications to ensure that people with disabilities are portrayed with respect and “a focus on the person, not labels,” according to the project’s website. Through their experience and expertise, story auditors can help state organizations ensure that they are avoiding stereotypes. 

  1. If you are reporting on a disabled person’s triumph over difficult circumstances, “make sure to address what is causing those circumstances, what it means to other disabled people, and what changes might be made so disabled people don’t have to struggle quite so much,” Pulrang writes. “Give readers some broader systemic change to work for.”

  2. Look for the larger societal forces that might create barriers for people with disabilities, and make that the focus of your story. The aforementioned story on how some Deaf people with master’s degrees had trouble finding jobs is a good example of this. By highlighting the social failings that create barriers for people with disabilities, you can create a conversation that critiques those failings to bring potential solutions.

  3. Refer to a disability only when it’s relevant to the story, and ask sources how they want to be described. Everybody’s preference is different: for example, Crandell has used “people-first” language, and has traditionally spoken about disability with the phrase, “person with (their disability).” It is important to always let your source tell you how they would like to be referred to.

    “Younger folks are saying, ‘I want to be known by my identity first,’ Crandell says. “And that’s been a real challenge for me. There’s a young woman who’s one of our story auditors, and we had this great discussion. And she says, ‘I am not a woman with autism, I’m an autistic.’ And that’s completely, completely different from people-first language.”

  4. When reporting on the intersection of disability and poverty, aim to know about the systems that might be creating barriers for people who are experiencing poverty. The relationship between poverty and disability is complicated: people with disabilities are more likely to become impoverished, and people living in poverty are more likely to have or acquire a disability.

    Crandell recommends knowing about your source’s story and current involvement in public systems and in residential programs.

    “Particularly if somebody is what we call ‘segregated’ into residential programs, like group homes and facilities, there you could not have resources — in fact, many times just your personal resources, like your phone, your iPad, or whatever might be taken even if you have one. So the coverage should know: where does the person’s story sit in public services?”

Kyra Posey is a graduate student studying journalism at the University of Georgia.

Note: This story was published with grant funding from the UGA Institute on Human Development and Disability.

Beat Guide: Disability

Why cover disability?

  • The relationship between poverty and disability is complicated. People with disabilities are more likely to become impoverished, and people living in poverty are more likely to have or acquire a disability. There are nuances in this relationship, and it’s important to begin educating yourself when beginning your reporting.
  • Stereotypes about people with disabilities persist in our media. You can best serve the community you’re writing about by taking care to avoid stereotypes and misconceptions in your reporting.

Research guide

Here’s a list of databases, reports and studies, institutions and guidance from news organizations to help you form the right questions in your reporting. 

If you’re feeling stuck, use the resources below to help answer these questions. They might help you get started on a story or expand on an idea about disability and poverty.

  • How many Americans have disabilities?
  • How is the federal government protecting people with disabilities?
  • What language should I use when reporting on people with disabilities?
  • How do I avoid stereotyping or continuing bias in my stories about people with disabilities?
  • Are there any recommendations or guides for reporting on people with disabilities?
  • What financial challenges affect people with disabilities?
  • How does poverty affect people with disabilities?

Essential Reports

The Extra Costs of Living with a Disability in the U.S. — Resetting the Policy Table. By the National Disability Institute, in partnership with the Stony Brook University School of Social Welfare and the Tennessee College of Social Work.

This research finds that a household containing an adult with a disability that limits their ability to work requires, on average, 28% more income to obtain the same standard of living as a similar household without a member with a disability. This report also examines what the U.S. is currently doing to address these extra costs and names policy implications this research might have.

Financial Inequality: Disability, Race and Poverty in America. By the National Disability Institute. Using data from the 2015 American Community Survey, this report explores the relationship between disability and race, examining the poverty rates, level of education and employment percentages among people with disabilities.

The Financial Challenges of Disability. By the National Disability Institute. This graphic shows some of the financial realities of people with disabilities, and points to the need for solutions that advance financial stability for people with disabilities.

Has the Promise Been Kept? Federal Enforcement of Disability Rights Laws (Part 1 & Part 2). These reports examine whether federal agencies tasked with enforcing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a law which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability, have done so adequately. These reports assess how federal agencies have implemented and enforced the ADA. 

Guidance for News Coverage

Disability Language Style Guide from the National Center on Disability and Journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. 

This style guide covers dozens of words and terms commonly used when referring to disability, and provides guidance on which terms to avoid and which terms are acceptable in news coverage.

Media Guides List from the National Center on Disability and Journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. 

This page provides links to guides from numerous organizations about effective ways to talk about disability in news coverage. Guides come from The Carter Center, the National Disability Rights Network and more.

For Ukraine — and all news coverage — journalists need to pay attention to word choices. From Poynter.

Through a broad examination of word choice, this piece shows how reporting and word choice can either inspire compassion or “lead to othering by reinforcing unconscious bias.” Understanding and accepting this idea is especially necessary in coverage of people with disabilities.

Disability Matters: A toolkit for newsrooms to better serve the disability community from the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri. 

This toolkit, created in 2022, was produced by Hannah Wise of The New York Times ​​”as a starting point for journalists or news organizations looking to improve coverage of disability and the accessibility of news products.” Wise notes that more than 61 million Americans live with disabilities and “newsrooms are woefully unprepared to produce journalism that represents the people that make up this community and their needs.” She created a living document (it’s open for community comments), as she describes it, focused on improving coverage and making journalism more accessible.

How to Report With Care on Disability. From The New York Times.

This piece, written by The New York Times’ inaugural disability reporting fellow, addresses how one of the best ways to improve disability reporting is to talk to more disabled people. Author Amanda Morris shares the ways she reports on disabilities in non problematic ways, such as picking stories that are actually newsworthy and serve disabled audiences.

From the Associated Press Stylebook: deaf, Deaf, hard of hearing

The Associated Press changed its style guide in 2022 to capitalize the ‘d’ in Deaf in some cases. From the Associated Press Stylebook newsletter: “Many deaf people who use sign language have a deeply ingrained sense of culture and community built around the experience of deafness and sign language, and use the uppercase form Deaf to signify that culture. The uppercase is acceptable, if used by the person or group, in descriptions such as the cultural Deaf community, Deaf education, Deaf culture, etc.” When using AP Style, deaf should still be lower case when referring to the audiological condition of total or major hearing loss, when relevant to the story.

Databases

American Community Survey

A part of the U.S. Census Bureau, the American Community Survey collects nationwide data every year on the social, economic, and housing characteristics. You can see specific data about disability in the United States, including the percentage of people with disabilities among people surveyed.  

Institutions

National Council on Disability. This council is an independent federal agency that advises the president, Congress, and other federal agencies regarding policies, programs and practices that affect people with disabilities. The council regularly releases reports and recommendations about policies for people with disabilities, which might serve as a starting point to better understand how the federal government makes laws to protect people with disabilities.

National Disability Institute. This institute aims to empower people with disabilities for a better financial future, with multiple projects and programs centered around that goal. This institute also releases reports which examine the financial status and financial literacy of people with disabilities.

National Center on Disability and Journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. This center provides an abundance of resources for reporting on disability, including a style guide, a reporting guide, and a writing and editing guide.

International Social Role Valorization Association. Social Role Valorization (SRV) is a “set of ideas useful for making positive change in the lives of people disadvantaged because of their status in society.” The International Social Role Valorization Association aims to promote SRV development, education and leadership, and the website has useful articles on how SRV can be applied to support people with disabilities.


Kyra Posey is a graduate student studying journalism at the University of Georgia. 

How I Reported the Story: Rental Market Stories

Read how reporter William Newlin wrote these pieces for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Need rental assistance? These 3 routes are available for metro Atlantans

Rental market boom hinders housing nonprofits

Before writing Need rental assistance? These 3 routes are available for metro Atlantans for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, I already had an idea where the story would go. The AJC had written several stories chronicling Georgia’s disbursal of rental assistance money received through federal relief efforts. Progress was slow, but the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, the City of Atlanta and several metro Atlanta counties had provided tens of millions of dollars in rental assistance over the past two years. 

Still, according to the United Way of Greater Atlanta, the most-searched service on its 2-1-1 nonprofit referral website was rental assistance. Clearly, people were still seeking help, and this piece was meant to be an updated resource guide to help readers find it. So, I tried to take a practical approach to reporting and writing the story.

I got in touch with the Department of Community Affairs, which oversees state-wide distribution of federal rental assistance funds. I received contextual information about the amount of money still available, average wait times to receive assistance, and I confirmed the criteria and documents the state requires from applicants. It was important to spell out all the requirements in the story so it would be a comprehensive resource. Otherwise, people might spend time gathering information and applying for assistance when they aren’t eligible. 

Since metro Atlanta counties directly received federal funds, I looked through county websites to see which still operated rental assistance programs and how people can access them. We included plenty of links and phone numbers to help direct readers to the resources listed. Aside from government agencies, past reporting had shown me that nonprofits were another key source for assistance.

The United Way and Impact46, a nonprofit in Lawrenceville, taught me about the limitations different organizations face in distributing rental assistance. Fraud was a concern for the government and nonprofits alike, which in part explains the extensive documentation requirements. Nonprofits providing assistance through a federal Emergency Solutions Grant, such as Impact46, have more restrictions in place than those using donations or other types of funding. I also spoke with a past source who directs a food pantry and financial assistance nonprofit in DeKalb County to better understand trends in need from his perspective and the relative efficiency of different groups in providing assistance. Speaking on background let me sort through the remaining questions I had in a more casual setting, and our conversation helped untangle the complicated web of government and non-government assistance options.

My reporting resulted in a list of resources and recommendations about how to find help paying rent, mortgages and utilities in the metro area. I tried to write the story with accessibility in mind, knowing that style wasn’t as important as substance and clarity. The biggest lesson I learned was that receiving help requires time and a lot of paperwork. It’s important to learn what’s required before applying to prevent as many potential delays as possible.

I carved out a beat within the Covering Poverty space, focusing mostly on nonprofit groups. I followed what I learned up with the AJC piece, Rental market boom hinders housing nonprofits. Covering Poverty’s housing beat guide provides resources in terms of datasets and questions to consider. For that story, I dug into data about fair market rents and interviewed individuals with housing nonprofits in metro Atlanta to focus on the current impact and what is possibly to come.

William Newlin is a graduate student at the University of Georgia with work appearing in Georgia Health News, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The Red & Black.

Podcast Episode: Housing Reporter Sean Keenan on Why Housing Reporting is Essential

Sean Keenan’s work can be found in The New York Times, Atlanta Magazine, The Daily Beast and Vice — just to name a few places. Sean is a freelance reporter and he also covers housing for the Atlanta Civic Circle. He joined The Lead podcast, another project with the Cox Institute for Journalism Innovation, Management, and Leadership to talk about why housing reporting is essential, the importance of holding public officials accountable, balancing accountability with objectivity and what drives him to keep covering housing. 

Sean Keenan also shared his insights on covering evictions for this piece on our website: How to Cover Evictions, and you can find more information about covering the intersection of housing and poverty with our Housing Beat Guide.

Hear freelance and housing reporter Sean Keenan discuss why housing reporting is essential and more.

Kyra Posey is a graduate student studying journalism at the University of Georgia. 

How I Reported the Story: Pantries at Athens area colleges, student centers grow to combat hunger

Read how reporters Allison Caso and Brieanna Smith wrote this feature for the Athens Banner-Herald: Pantries at Athens area colleges, student centers grow to combat hunger. Written by Allison Caso.

This article aimed to discuss the prevalent and often overlooked issue of student food insecurity and provide resources for students in Athens-Clarke County. 

We expanded our focus past just the University of Georgia’s campus and researched the University of North Georgia’s Oconee Campus, Athens Technical College and campus ministry groups. 

We observed several of the food pantries to better understand how they operate and take appropriate photographs. Brieanna Smith said this observation method was new to her and she enjoyed the hands-on approach. Something I have noticed through doing in-person observation is the learning curve of the group I’m working with and myself. Often the organization is not used to during interviews or having reporters come and observe and vice versa. Therefore, reporters should go in with a short list and game plan of what they need and want to accomplish at the organization to put both parties at ease. 

This article also taught us about obstacles with obtaining information due to organization’s policies and protection of people’s information. We had to continually follow up and do several rounds of iterations to make sure we included all the necessary information. We also learned to put the newest and most relevant information at the beginning. Initially, we primarily focused on college food pantries that have been functional for several years, but we then switched the focus to the newer Presbyterian Student Center Food Pantry to make it most informational to our readers. 

Learn more about food insecurity on college campus and how to cover it here: 

The Hope Center’s report: #REALCOLLEGE 2021: Basic Needs Insecurity During the Ongoing Pandemic

From the Education Data Initiative: Average Cost of Food per Month for a College Student

Allison Caso is a fourth-year finance and journalism student at The University of Georgia. She has reported for The Athens-Banner Herald, The Borgen Project, and Grady Newsource. 
Brieanna Smith is a fourth-year journalism student at the University of Georgia with work appearing in the Athens-Banner Herald, The Red & Black, Infusion Magazine and 90.1 WABE Atlanta. 

How I Reported the Story: Help for those in Northeast Georgia: Where to find shelters, washrooms and food pantries

Read how reporters Allison Caso, Brieanna Smith and Foster Steinbeck wrote this service piece for the Athens Banner-Herald: Help for those in Northeast Georgia: Where to find shelters, washrooms and food pantries. Written by Allison Caso.

The goal of this project was to provide an extensive list of resources available to food and shelter insecure residents in Athens-Clarke County. We also wanted to factor in COVID-19 and how it affected these populations in Athens. To gain background information we looked at data from the U.S. Census Bureau, The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and several articles discussing the COVID-19 in relation to Athens-Clarke County. 

This article was an extensive project that involved researching and calling various locations around Athens to gain information about programs offered.  This type of project was different that other articles because it relied less on a few in-depth interviews, and the information came from a wide variety of shorter confirmation phone calls. We worked through several iterations of this article, trying to figure out the best way to present the information to make it available and useful. This process led to the suggestion of including nearby bus lines, so people had a way to get to the organizations listed.

One challenge I experienced in working on this article was finding the balance of how much information to include about each organization. Additionally, some services at certain organizations changed as we continued working on the article, and we had to continuously update and make sure the information we had was up to date.

Brieanna Smith said working on this article forced her to “step into other people’s shoes to report on this,” and ask what the population needed to know. She also brainstormed ways to make it accessible offline.  

Foster Steinbeck visited Timothy Baptist Food Bank several times and found several other sources through going in person. He also said going in person allowed him to better understand the work they do and ultimately take better photographs. 

The most important part of working on an article like this is to follow up with sources and attempt to get out in the field to really see the work these organizations do. 

Check out these resources on the Covering Poverty website about how to report for service journalism. 

Allison Caso is a fourth-year finance and journalism student at The University of Georgia. She has reported for The Athens-Banner Herald, The Borgen Project, and Grady Newsource. 

Brieanna Smith is a fourth-year journalism student at the University of Georgia with work appearing in the Athens-Banner Herald, The Red & Black, Infusion Magazine and 90.1 WABE Atlanta.

Foster Steinbeck is a fourth-year journalism student at The University of Georgia with the Covering Poverty Institute. 

How I Reported the Story: How Organizations are Working to Diminish Diaper Need and Where to Find Free Products

Read how reporter Janelle Ward reported this piece for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: How organizations are working to diminish diaper need and where to find free products

No matter one’s economic status, raising a child is expensive. But for parents and guardians in poverty, these expenses can be even more challenging to regularly afford. When I received the pitch to cover diaper need in Atlanta, I wasn’t aware how costly disposable diapers could be for the average family. Looking into data and reading stories of baby supply insecurity in Georgia was eye-opening, especially at a time where inflation is at a record high across the country.

I began my research looking into the problem of “diaper need” directly. I browsed the National Diaper Bank Network website for national and statewide statistics to understand the enormity of the issue. I was shocked by the statistics I found; so many families depend on creative methods to stretch out their diaper supplies to ensure they last as long as possible. I wanted to shift my thinking to why diaper need had grown to such a big issue. This led me to research the global supply chain shortage and explain how it impacts store shelves and prices all over the country. I also highlighted the prices of disposable diaper packs at different grocery stores in the area to further place into perspective how these supply shortages affect local communities as well as larger markets.

I then looked up nonprofit organizations in the metro Atlanta area working to provide free resources, which is how I discovered Helping Mamas. The organization has grown immensely over the past 6 years and adjusted its method of outreach to better suit metro Atlantans during the pandemic. I spoke with Jamie Lackey, founder and chief executive officer of Helping Mamas, about how her organization plays a role in diminishing diaper need. I also spoke with Maria Henriquez, director of Medicaid plan marketing at Amerigroup Georgia about the initiatives she and her team take to help needy families. 

Diapers, disposable or otherwise, are necessary for babies to remain healthy as they grow to become toddlers, which makes diaper availability an issue connected to health care. The health care beat on the Covering Poverty website gave me great questions to ask myself as I carried out the reporting and writing process. 

Janelle Ward is a senior at the University of Georgia.

The Most Interesting Poverty Pieces of 2021

Graphic by Kyra Posey.

Covering Poverty has compiled some of the most interesting reporting from 2021, from video stories, to features, to photography. Read why we chose them below.

The Geography of Food Insecurity in America

The GroundTruth Project

This story was produced as part of “Barren Mile: COVID-19 and the fight against food apartheid,” which was a Report for America initiative that brought together four Black-owned newsrooms — New York Amsterdam News, the Atlanta Voice, St. Louis American and Black Voice News — to look at how COVID-19 impacted food security in their communities. This specific piece features photographs from various towns in America to document what food insecurity looks like from Sitka, Alaska to Athens, Georgia.

These Single Mom Are Forced to Choose: Reveal Their Sexual Histories or Forfeit Welfare

ProPublica

This ProPublica piece examines welfare funding’s frequent requirement that women identify who fathered their children and when they became pregnant, among other deeply personal details. This practice has deep roots in U.S. history — back to the bastardy laws of colonial times. The contemporary, less violent arrangement requires states to “go after fathers of children whose mothers had applied for welfare, in an attempt to get them to pay child support to the government as repayment for those welfare dollars.” This piece makes our list because of its deep examination of the welfare legislation and its focus on the affected mothers.

When Dasani Left Home

The New York Times

In 2013, the story of Dasani Coates took up five pages in The New York Times. With eight siblings, Dasani and her family lived in a city-run homeless shelter in Brooklyn. This original piece provided a rare look into how homelessness affects the course of one’s life.

In September 2021, The New York Times Magazine published another piece — When Dasani Left Home. New York Times writer Andrea Elliot was allowed to follow Dasani’s family for almost 10 years, and in the follow-up piece, Dasani separates from her family at 13 years old to attend Milton Hershey school – a boarding school that tries to rescue children from poverty. This makes our list because of the author’s dedication to telling this story, and the attention to carefully tell Dasani’s story. (The author has also published a book: “Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival & Hope in an American City”).

“It’s a walkout!” Inside the fast-food workers’ season of rebellion

The Washington Post

This piece tells the story of an employee walk-out in Bradford, Pennsylvania, a town with a 30 percent poverty rate. McDonalds’ employees from a Bradford location, tired of low wages, 60-hour workweeks and an emotionally taxing job, banded together and walked out of the McDonald’s in protest. This story examines the aftermath of the walkout and provides context on the working conditions and low wages of the corporate fast-food industry.

Pandemic Prompts More Black Americans to Take Up Urban Gardening to End “Food Apartheid”

St. Louis American/Mother Jones

This story was produced as part of “Barren Mile: COVID-19 and the fight against food apartheid,” which was a Report for America initiative that brought together four Black-owned newsrooms — New York Amsterdam News, the Atlanta Voice, St. Louis American and Black Voice News — to look at how COVID-19 impacted food security in their communities. This particular piece looks at how Black people, who were affected by food insecurity at higher levels than white people during the pandemic, took to urban gardening as “home-grown solutions to the redlining-induced problem of limited access to healthy foods.” This piece also addresses how “food deserts,” or what activists call sites of “food apartheid,” systemically affected Black communities.

How America’s hottest city is trying to cool down

Vox

This video examines how Pheonix’ urban design contributes to extreme heat in the city. The city is looking to trees as part of its heat mitigation strategy, but trees are distributed unevenly across the city. There are fewer trees in the south and west, which is where many lower-income neighborhoods are located. This piece does an incredible job at explaining how trees could be a solution, and at exploring the promises – and gaps – of the city’s “tree equity” plan.

“Biblical” flooding in South Sudan displaces hundreds of thousands.

CNN

This reporting from CNN’s International Correspondent Clarissa Ward details how extreme flooding in south Sudan displaced hundreds of thousands, pushing many into poverty. This illustrates how climate change will affect everyone, and those in poverty are the most vulnerable.

Hidden Nashville

Bitter Southerner

This story follows nonprofit outreach and resource navigator Susan Adock as she builds relationship with Nashville’s homeless population. Adock also is a photographer, and uses her photography to advocate for those affected by poverty. This deeply personal piece follows Susan’s work and also details how Nashville’s homeless have become increasingly vulnerable, from a tornado and bombing in 2020 to the city’s clearing of homeless camps. 

A Long-Deferred Hope for Better Housing

The Washington Post Magazine

This piece examines housing support in the economically depressed Missisippi Delta, a majority-Black rural region in the South. It tells the story of one woman’s home renovation after her house had decayed throughout her years of occupancy, and the piece also shines a light on housing injustice in the region. Photos document how the home renovation — made possible from a state grant — improved the woman’s home.

Disruptions to schooling fall hardest on vulnerable students

The Associated Press

This story describes why vulnerable students, often living in poverty, were the hardest hit from school disruptions amid the coronavirus pandemic. Families often don’t have the resources to deal with breakdowns in the public education system, and can’t educate their child when they are exposed to COVID-19 and have no access to online schooling.

Kyra Posey is a graduate student studying journalism at the University of Georgia.