The Children's Aid Blog

Supplemental Report On Food And Nutrition: Harmful Health Effects Of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages

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We are a nation that values convenience and speed – and all too often that means a junk food diet (food that is high in fat, added sugar, sodium and empty calories.) And, sadly, this lifestyle is easily passed on to our children. For instance: the daily consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) and fast food has increased alarmingly among children and adolescents, over the past three decades. In a 2009 research study on The Negative Impact of Sugar-sweetened Beverages on Children’s Health, conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, it is noted that as children increase their intake of SSB, they typically decrease their consumption of milk, resulting in a reduction of essential nutrients such as calcium, iron, folate and vitamin A.

According to the study, the health implications of ingesting SSB – which include (but are not limited to) sodas, fruit drinks, and sports/energy drinks – have been linked to tooth decay, anxiety, lack of sleep, weight gain/obesity, decreased bone mineral density, and type 2 diabetes. According to a recent policy report issued by the New England Journal of Medicine, the health risks posed by regular consumption of SSB provides a compelling argument for aggressive strategies to reduce the intake of such beverages. One suggestion was imposing a tax on all sugar-sweetened beverages to discourage overall consumption and promote good nutrition. Education is, of course, fundamental for children and their families to recognize the value of good nutrition and the positive impact that healthy choices have on their lives.

Stefania Patinella, Director of Food & Nutrition Programs at The Children’s Aid Society says:

“At The Children’s Aid Society, we are engaged in just such an education campaign through our Go!Healthy intiative, which teaches children and parents about wellness and the joys of healthful cooking and eating. Our programs give families the tools to make informed decisions about what they eat and drink so they can be “conscious consumers.” In one activity, youth are astonished when they measure how much sugar is in their foods and beverages, like sodas, juice drinks and cereals. In another, they learn about the marketing tricks companies use to convince consumers that products are healthy when they’re not—such as pictures of fruit or words such as “natural.” Parents and youth alike learn what too much sugar means for their health, mood, and concentration, as well as its relationship to Type 2 diabetes, a disease that is devastating many low-income families and communities. Of course, to keep every class positive and fun, we include hands-on cooking activities that empower children and parents to make healthy, homemade meals part of their daily lives. With every meal, we serve water…and for special occasions, homemade “soda”: equal parts seltzer and 100% fruit juice, with fresh fruit as a garnish!”

A Landlord’s Foreclosure Puts a Tenant in Trouble

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The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund recently featured this Children’s Aid story about Alice Garvin and how assistance helped her move into a new apartment in Bushwick, Brooklyn . Below is an excerpt from the original article.

Foreclosure has touched Alice Garvin’s life twice. The first time, four years ago, she came home to find a notice on the front door of the East New York, Brooklyn, apartment building in which she, her sons and two of her grandchildren had lived for two years.

Alice Garvin, 77, with her granddaughter Jessica Davis and great-grandson
Nahim Natoes, left, and a great-nephew, DeShawn Williams

The second time, foreclosure rescued Ms. Garvin, 77, from an apartment in a violent section of Crown Heights, an apartment she could not wait to leave because, in addition to the gunshots outside and the lack of maintenance, there were the insects.

“Bugs would fall from the ceiling,” said Audrey Henry, her caseworker at the East New York Family Center, which is operated by the Brooklyn Bureau of Community Service, one of the seven agencies supported by The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund.

“I was lucky to be alive,” Ms. Garvin added, a hint of her native South Carolina in her voice, though she has lived in New York for 50 years.

In both cases, foreclosure was beyond Ms. Garvin’s control: She is not a homeowner, but a tenant. Though Ms. Garvin was happy to leave a violent neighborhood, she could not afford to move. For that, she needed $6,600 from The New York Times Subprime Neediest Cases Fund, which is administered by the Children’s Aid Society, so that she, her two sons, two grandchildren, a great-nephew and a great-grandson could move to a four-bedroom apartment in Bushwick in February.

Read more… To learn how you can make a difference for this family and many others, please link over to The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund or contact: The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund 230 West 41st Street Suite 1300 New York, NY 10036 (800) 381-0075 Photo courtesy of Paul Taggart for The New York Times

Help Children's Aid win $250K to send 1,000 New York City Kids to Camp this Summer

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Mission for April, support the New Worlds Project: Life Enhancing Experiences for Youth Initiative through the Pepsi Refresh Project. The New Worlds Project is an initiative of The Children’s Aid Society’s Wagon Road Camp that could greatly benefit from a $250,000 grant from Pepsi. This grant would:

  • provide 60 city kids 34 days of country day camp
  • bring 480 teens to camp for 2 and 3 day overnights
  • increase academic success and responsibility for these 480 teens
  • create healthy routines: fitness, diet, sleep, reflection
  • bring 600 youth to camp for a 1 day team building program

The Project will provide the experience of the natural outdoors with programming that promotes self-confidence, leadership, team building, nutrition, and fitness. Voting is simple and easy but you must register before you can vote:

1. You must register to vote. Register at 2. Go to to vote EVERY DAY 3. Click the “vote for this idea button” on the New Worlds Project page 4. Fill in your email address and password and click the "vote for this idea" button again (You should receive a message thanking you for your vote) 5. Go to back to EVERY DAY and vote (You will only need to fill in your e-mail address and password to log in)

East Harlem Head Start Hosts a Healthy Cooking Training for Neighborhood Home Visitors

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The family that eats well together stays well together.  The East Harlem Head Start program recently began a new partnership with fellow neighborhood home visiting service providers.  The growing community of East Harlem has seen a large increase in very young children - birth to three years old.  In response to this increase, many agencies have begun offering programs where teachers or home visitors go to each family's home to work with the parent and the baby or toddler.

Different agencies around East Harlem, such as the Little Sisters of Assumption, University Settlement's Healthy Families, the Northern Manhattan Perinatal Partnership, and The Children’s Aid Society’s Early Head Start program, all linked by the same type of work, recently began a network to discuss possible collaborations and supports.

The first joint event took place on Friday, January 22 at the East Harlem Center.  The Children's Aid Society's Go!Healthy program ran a training on Healthy Meals for the Whole Family.  The training was specific to the home visitors who worked with children birth to three years old.  Some of the topics covered were 'Ease, Cost Effectiveness and Health Benefits of Homemade Baby Food,' 'Tips for Creating a Healthy Pantry,' and where to locate neighborhood resources such as food stamps and farmer's markets.

The home visitors that attended were then able to practice making a number of healthy recipes such as lentil soup, homemade applesauce, and banana-berry smoothies.  The goal was to train the home visitors in these healthy recipes and then have them go out into the community to teach the families.

Children’s Aid Brings It Home for Families In Need

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Home. It’s something many take for granted – the security in knowing there’s a warm, comfy place to call their own. In New York City there are many families for whom “home” means living in their car, temporary shelter – or worse. They may have lost a job or been evicted from their apartment. One thing is certain: they need immediate assistance. The Children’s Aid Society of New York is committed to helping these at-risk children and families within our community to get back on their feet so they can pursue productive lives, without the constant fear of losing the roof over their heads.

At times, this can be a daunting task, however Children’s Aid’s Office of Public Policy and Client Advocacy (OPPCA) is staffed with dedicated staff who are trained and equipped to counsel families in crisis – from landlord/tenant conflict resolution and eviction prevention, to assistance with emergency shelter or temporary/transitional housing placement. Most importantly, we seek to educate these families – to help them know their rights and the resources available to them.

For families who find themselves homeless, Children’s Aid will help them find temporary/transitional housing, like the Carmel Hill Project and the Pelham Fritz Transitional Apartments to help families get back on their feet. As always, our primary goal is for children to feel safe, enjoying the most basic of pleasures – a place they can call Home.

New York City also has an eviction prevention program in place, called Family Eviction Prevention Supplement (FEPS). The program assists families with paying their rent arrears and providing subsequent income supplement for families receiving public assistance. To qualify for receiving aid from FEPS, families must meet the program’s criteria, and once approved, the families can receive the supplement for a maximum of five years.

The Children’s Aid Society 6th Annual Youth Speak Out

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Energetic youth brought down the house on Thursday, April 1st at the 6th Annual Youth Speak Out on Education, presented by The Children’s Aid Society and The Audrey Miller Poritzky Education Fund for Children. Approximately 150 teens from Children’s Aid community centers and schools came together in a beautiful space provided by New York University.

This year, students decided to concentrate on homelessness, the foster care system and effects on academic success. The students’ research was presented in various PowerPoint presentations and skits. The highlight for me was the Q & A between City Council members and the students which was moderated by James Ford, lead reporter from “PIX Morning News” of WPIX. The students challenged the panel with interesting questions about budget cuts and charter schools. Also present to tackle some questions was New York City Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott, who has attended the conference every year. “We work very hard to not penalize homeless youth,” said the Deputy Mayor, in response to students who are struggling to complete a high school education because of homelessness or their records not following them through the foster care system. “We, the system, should not contribute to kids missing school.” I had a seat near Deputy Mayor Walcott and was happy to notice his undivided attention was focused on Children’s Aid.

To tie up the conference, The Audrey Miller Poritzky Education Fund for Children presented three high school seniors with scholarships. On hand to help hand out the awards were Dr. Laurence Miller and his granddaughter Sophie.

Get Off the Couch and Into the Kitchen!

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If you haven’t made your personal resolution to better health yet, I’ve got a good idea for you: Cook. Preparing food in your own home with your own two hands is one of the healthiest steps you can take this year. You’ve surely heard of the saying “you are what you eat.” Well, when you cook for yourself, you know what you eat. And that’s more than halfway to health.

Consider this point, from a brilliant article in the Times called Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch: “Today the average American spends a mere 27 minutes a day on food preparation (another four minutes cleaning up); that’s less than half the time that we spent cooking and cleaning up when Julia [Child] arrived on our television screens. It’s also less than half the time it takes to watch a single episode of “Top Chef” or “Chopped” or “The Next Food Network Star.”

What this suggests is that a great many Americans are spending considerably more time watching images of cooking on television than they are cooking themselves — an increasingly archaic activity they will tell you they no longer have the time for.”

I suppose that would all be fine….except that as cooking has become a spectator sport, Americans’ weight has skyrocketed. Today, two out of every three American adults are overweight.

So, let’s make this easy. Cooking is not rocket science, and it can even (shock!) be fun — put on a little music, pour yourself a beverage of choice, smell the garlic sautéing, and suddenly it’s the best part of your day. To feed yourself and your family a simple and wholesome dinner takes all of 30 minutes once you’ve got a few basic skills.

How do you acquire these skills? By cooking! Afraid you’ll mess up? Do like Julia Child. On one show, she flipped a potato pancake and spilled half of it on the stovetop. She didn’t cry about it, she picked it up, threw it back in the pan and kept going.  Real cooking is not what happens on TV in the glossy kitchens with fancy machines whipping cream into perfect peaks. It’s what happens in yours, with the oven door that doesn’t close all the way and the chipped orange bowls you inherited from grandma. Cooking is imperfect, and that’s my favorite part about it.

Below is a recipe for lentil soup that can’t go wrong and takes only 10 minutes of active prep. Serve with whole grain bread and a salad for a cheap, warm and nourishing winter meal. For you cheaters out there, please note: if you use store-bought dressing on your salad, it doesn’t count as cooking! Try our vinaigrette, recipe below, which takes a whopping one minute to make.

Lentil Soup

Serves 4-6

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 onion, diced

2 large carrots, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

1 cup dry lentils

1, 15-ounce can chopped tomatoes

1 bunch (about 10-12 ounces) fresh spinach well rinsed and roughly chopped (or substitute 10 ounces of frozen spinach)

Juice of 1/2 - 1 lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

A handful of fresh parsley, roughly chopped

Optional: freshly grated Parmigiano cheese

  1. In a large pot, heat olive oil and sauté together onion, carrots and celery for about five minutes.
  2. Add tomatoes, lentils, and a pinch of salt and pepper and continue sautéing for 2-3 minutes more, stirring constantly.
  3. Add 6 cups of water and another pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 35-40 minutes or until lentils and vegetables are very tender. Check soup every 15 minutes or so to make sure lentils and vegetables are covered with liquid the whole time. If necessary, add more water ½ cup at a time.
  4. Add spinach to the pot and stir it in until it wilts completely—about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat.
  5. Add lemon to taste and parsley. Adjust seasonings and turn off heat.
  6. Serve hot accompanied by whole grain bread, and if you wish, freshly grated Parmigiano cheese.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

Yield: about 1/3 cup


¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon honey

1 teaspoon mustard

Pinch salt and fresh ground black pepper


Combine all ingredients into a bowl and mix well with a whisk. Alternatively, combine all ingredients in a jar with a tight lid and shake vigorously until it is well blended. Taste and adjust the seasonings to your liking. Dress your salad, and store remaining vinaigrette in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Note: If left to sit, the oil and vinegar will separate—that’s fine. To bring them back together, just whisk or, if in a jar, shake.

We’d love to hear your stories and suggestions—post them here.

Happy Cooking!

Stefania Patinella
Director of Food and Nutrition Programs
The Children’s Aid Society

2010 Children’s Aid Youth Council “Make a Change” Conference

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Speak to a member of The Children’s Aid Society Community Schools Youth Council and you will quickly realize the importance of youth voice in the Bronx and Washington Heights communities.

At the “Make a Change” Conference on Domestic Violence, Child Abuse and Animal Cruelty on Tuesday, April 6th, the young people showed they have a lot to say about what they want to change in their communities. They are aware of the problems and are mobilized to create a positive change.

The conference was attended by approximately 100 students and included youth-facilitated workshops on the three topics.

The conference also offered parent workshops on “navigating the teen years” and helping children develop healthy relationships.

The students organized an information fair for attendees, with booths from The Children’s Aid Society Family Wellness and Foster Care Programs, the Mental Health Association, the Census and a youth created petition to fight city budget cuts affecting young people. The conference included dynamic Public Service Announcements directed and acted out by the youth council members, providing their perspective on domestic violence, child abuse and animal cruelty.

The “Make a Change” Conference was educational, empowering and entertaining. Mostly, it was a tribute to what is possible when you help young people take the lead.

Stacy Campo Director, Youth Development Photos by Lily Kesselman for The Children’s Aid Society

Children’s Aid’s Teen Space; Foster Care ServicesTo Engage The Next Step

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The Children’s Aid Society has an extraordinary history of helping foster youth, going back to our beginnings in the mid 19th century’s Orphan Trains, started by our founder Charles Loring Brace.

Believing that children deserve to grow up with a good education, accessible health care and an opportunity to thrive, Brace was on the front lines of foster care reform and advocacy. The success of Children's Aid initiatives helped lead to national child welfare reforms, including child labor laws, adoption and foster care services, health care and vocational training.

Today, thanks to Teen Space, a newly built drop-in center for foster youth, ages 13-21, Children’s Aid remains at the forefront of supporting disadvantaged youth in New York City. Teen Space is an oasis, a place where youth learn to become an integral part of mapping their own future, helping themselves grow to be self sustaining adults. Teen Space encourages foster teens to not only learn about opportunities and challenges, but to embrace them. By understanding and meeting these challenges, the youths take responsibility for their future as they prepare for their permanency course of action, when they leave foster care, are adopted, or are returned to their biological parent(s).

There is much to learn when foster youth age out of programs; Teen Space provides counselors, informational/recreational tools, books, test preparation materials and internet access. Additionally Children’s Aid’s Know Your Rights pamphlets provide answers on education, family, consumer rights, housing, and a score of other important issues.  You can join us at the Children’s Aid Society in making a difference in a child’s life as a foster child, and their life beyond.

Children's Aid Youth Councils Prepare for their Annual "Make A Change" Conference

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If you visit a Children’s Aid Community Middle School in the next two weeks you will hear the din of young people engaged in community organizing and youth leadership. The CAS Youth Councils from SU Campus, Mirabal Sisters Campus, CIS 166, IS 98 and Fannie Lou Hamer Middle School are preparing for their annual conference. Every year students join together to bring attention to the issues they are seeing and experiencing in their community. This year they are focusing their advocacy efforts on child abuse, domestic violence and animal cruelty.

“We want to address how abuse affects everyone in the family, including the dog,” said youth developer and former youth council member, Dezirae Alamo.

Since the students identified the conference topic in December, the Youth Councils have been meeting two to three times a week to prepare workshops, research policy, meet with mental health professionals, invite guest speakers and create information flyers relating to these important issues. As a youth led conference, the students will be greeting the guests, doling out the lunch and facilitating the workshops. The “Make A Change” Conference will also offer workshops for parents, facilitated by Children's Aid Foster Care and Family Wellness Program. The conference was held on Tuesday, April 6th at CIS 166 located at 250 E 164th St from 10:30 AM till 3:30 PM. The Children’s Aid Society Community Schools Youth Council Conference is open to community residents; please register by calling Stacey Campo at 718-378-2871 or emailing

Stacey Campo
Director, Youth Development