Author: Andrew Katusin

About Andrew Katusin

Andrew Katusin is the Education Program Associate at United Way of Greater Cleveland. His work focuses on quality early childcare and kindergarten readiness, academic support and success and high school graduation. Andrew is originally from the Football Hall of Fame city of Canton, OH and recently returned to the area after living in Chicago and Columbus over the past 8 years. Outside of work, Andrew enjoys experiencing the great food and diverse culture Cleveland has to offer in every neighborhood of the city.

United Way strives to provide access to healthy foods

Andrew KatusinAs the director of basic needs at United Way of Greater Cleveland, I lead the organization’s investments in food security, which means ensuring community members have access to healthy food for themselves and their families. I have visited many food pantries throughout Cuyahoga County. When you walk in, you quickly see how many young parents and their children, individuals with special needs and even our community’s senior citizens access the pantry to get the food they need. For thousands of other Clevelanders, their access to food is changing as two of the four Cleveland Giant Eagle grocery stores close.

A recent food pantry visit made me realize I take my own trips to the grocery store for granted. I pulled into the parking lot of what looked like an abandoned building which once housed a corner store and a laundromat. This building was now a food pantry and the only place in the area to get fresh food.

While there, I witnessed an older couple loading up their cart. I learned the couple was married for approximately 50 years and were likely in their 80s. The couple doesn’t have any immediate family in the area and they live a mile away from the pantry. Bi-weekly, the elderly couple walks a mile to get their groceries. That day the couple trekked the distance in the snow and slush gifted by a Cleveland winter. They did it because they had to – because they lived in a food desert.
healthyfood

A food desert, defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is an area lacking access to affordable fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat milk and other foods recommended for a healthy diet. Nationally these areas, according to the USDA, have a 42 percent lower median household income than nonfood desert neighborhoods and consistently see higher rates of poverty. However, food deserts have an abundance of corner stores specializing in snacks, processed frozen food, alcohol and cigarettes. Grocery stores are unable to generate enough revenue and keep business in food deserts and therefore do not provide residents the ability to get proper nutrition.

As more grocery stores are forced to close, one retailer has become a staple in Cleveland. Dave’s Markets continue to operate 14 grocery stores in Greater Cleveland increasing access in several neighborhoods, some of which are low income. Even with Dave’s dedication, many Cleveland residents lack access to fresh food due to barriers such as transportation. Convenient access to healthy and fresh food is critical and why United Way continues to invest basic needs.

United Way facilitates county investments to the Greater Cleveland Food Bank and The Hunger Network that operate area food pantries. In addition, we invest in 11 community programs striving to enhance people’s ability to access and eat nutritious food and reduce the influence food deserts have.

As a community member, get educated about the issue, research what is going on and learn how your community is responding. Take time to volunteer or donate to local organizations providing healthy food to those who need it. And when you hear about legislation impacting available funding for programs, speak up! It is amazing the power a quick call to your local legislator can have. If you’re not sure how to help, send us a note. The bottom line: it is our obligation to ensure food desserts don’t force any individual, family or senior citizen to go hungry due to lack of access.

Cleveland’s Success depends on the Next Generation

Andrew Katusin By Andrew Katusin, Education Program Associate, United Way of Greater Cleveland

In Greater Cleveland, we come together to support collective success, especially for our children. That’s just who we are.

The success of future generations, and our larger community, is directly tied to quality education beginning with the development of one major skill: reading. Our community continues to rally behind its children to provide support and resources needed for success. Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD), United Way of Greater Cleveland, foundations and other local nonprofit organizations understand the importance and joined together to create a network to help our children become strong readers. Continue reading “Cleveland’s Success depends on the Next Generation”

United Way’s Club Connect Adopt-a-School supports grade-level reading

United Way Cleveland and Cuyahoga Community College Club Connect“There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.” – Walt Disney

How many books do you have in your home? According to the Children’s Literacy Foundation, each child in a middle-class household has access to 13 books. For every 300 children residing in a low-income household there is far less literacy treasure with only one book.

Many of us have heard the slogan “Up until third grade, children learn to read. After third grade, they read to learn.” If a student isn’t reading at grade level by the end of third grade, he or she is four times more likely to drop out of high school. And for minority populations, the risk is multiplied by 10.

The Solution
United Way’s Club Connect Adopt-a-School program combats challenges to grade-level reading. The program matches local sponsors with local schools that have a high enrollment of children from low-income families. The Club Connect program supplies each adopted school with 400 books, parent engagement tools and an online platform for out-of-school reading time.

We opened the first Club Connect reading room at Parma’s John Muir Elementary school on October 27. And this week, we’re cutting the ribbon at John F. Kennedy Elementary School in Maple Heights. Both schools are sponsored by Cuyahoga Community College.

Club Connect Ribbon CuttingIn the coming weeks we are launching Club Connect spaces in additional schools — Euclid’s Shoreview also sponsored by Cuyahoga Community College, and John Dewey and Eastwood Elementary Schools in Warrensville Heights both sponsored by Omnova Solutions.

Every individual in Cuyahoga County can add a piece of gold to the treasure chest – sign up and spend an hour of your day volunteering with a local school or library to read and tutor elementary students. Donate books to local schools, shelters and community organizations. Support your own child’s development by reading with (not to!) him or her for 15 minutes a day; that’s the same amount of time you spend watching commercials during your favorite show! The list could go on and on but the golden link is YOU!

If you would like to sponsor a local school with United Way’s Club Connect program, please contact me at akatusin@unitedwaycleveland.org.

There is more treasure in books…

United Way Cleveland and Cuyahoga Community College Club Connect“There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.” – Walt Disney

How many books do you have in your home? According to the Children’s Literacy Foundation, each child in a middle-class household has access to 13 books. For every 300 children residing in a low-income household there is far less literacy treasure with only one book.

Many of us have heard the slogan “Up until third grade, children learn to read. After third grade, they read to learn.” If a student isn’t reading at grade level by the end of third grade, he or she is four times more likely to drop out of high school. And for minority populations, the risk is multiplied by 10. Continue reading “There is more treasure in books…”

School Starts and So Does Attendance Awareness Month

Attendance Month
Andrew KatusinIf you’re not at work, you can’t get work done. If you’re not at home, you can’t cook dinner or clean. If a student isn’t in school, he or she cannot learn. September is “Attendance Awareness Month” to ensure students start the year strong creating good habits for school attendance. Students who miss 10 percent or more, about 20 days of an academic year, are more likely to fall behind and drop out than students who attend school regularly. If you think about it, 20 days is essentially a month’s worth of school – a significant loss of time in the classroom!

Continue reading “School Starts and So Does Attendance Awareness Month”