Monthly Archives: November 2013

Food Security

US Food Map

In 1996, the World Health Organization defined Food Security as …

“When all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life.”

Unfortunately, 14.5 % of U.S. households are food insecure. And 95% of those food insecure households must seek nutrition assistance resources.

In response to the 2008 economic crisis, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act increased funding to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Formerly known as “food stamps,” SNAP benefits assist low-income individuals and families purchase food. This program is managed by the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), a branch of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

On November 1, 2013, SNAP benefits were cut by $5 billion nationally. 

It’s difficult to comprehend enormous numbers. So, let’s narrow the focus and take a local look.

There are approximately 350,000 residents in Lane County. Of those, 70,000 are SNAP recipients. This means that 1 in 5 Lane County residents just lost 6% of their nutrition assistance benefits.

The Good News

There is plenty of food. In fact, food waste is an enormous issue in and of itself. And more good news, Food for Lane County has programs in place that support the 3 pillars of food security:

3 Oranges


1. Available!

2. Accessible!

3. Responsible!

Here are a few examples.

Photo courtesy of Food for Lane County

Photo courtesy of Food for Lane County

Photo Courtesy of Food for Lane County

Photo Courtesy of Food for Lane County

Photo Courtesy of Food for Lane County

Photo Courtesy of Food for Lane County

Let’s avoid a hunger cliff. Connect your household, business or school with Food for Lane County to support local food security efforts.



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Turkey Trotters Keep the Giving in Thanksgiving

2013 Turkey Trot

2013 Turkey Trot

More than 1,200 participants braved the foggy, 36 degree morning chill to attend this year’s Turkey Trot. Bundled in mittens, hats and running shoes, Eugene trotters were warmed by the spirit of giving.

Food for Lane County and St. Vincent de Paul are the beneficiaries of this year’s Trot. Five dollars from each entry fee will be allocated to these two organizations.

The Starting Line

The Starting Line

Trotters lined up for the 9 a.m. start in the Valley River Center parking lot. The 4 mile course followed the Willamette river and lead participants through Skinner’s Butte park.

Ten minutes after the 4 mile trot began, walkers lined up at the starting line to embark on a 2 mile walk. Both trotters and walkers were a diverse mix of ages and many were accompanied by strollers and dogs.

Trotters and walkers make their way to the river trail

Trotters and walkers make their way to the river trail

This family and dog friendly event has increased in size every year since its inception in 2011. The cold weather and acute food awareness of the holiday season makes Thanksgiving morning the perfect moment to draw support for Food for Lane County and St. Vincent de Paul.

Food for Lane County picks up donated food brought by Turkey Trotters

Food for Lane County picks up donated food brought by Turkey Trotters

It was truly inspiring to see Lane County families and friends come together to build and support a healthy Thanksgiving tradition. Thank you to all the participants, sponsors and volunteers who made the third annual Turkey Trot a success. I hope to see you all there next year!

A fun event for all ages!

A fun event for all ages!

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Hashtags: A Brief Account of a Long History

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Today, the # symbol is easily recognized as a “hashtag.” Its current identity is solidly connected to Twitter and is commonplace in the world of social media. My earliest memory of the # symbol belongs in the post-rotary, pre-smartphone dark ages of the ’70s. The “pound” button offered a few options to traditional telephone mechanics, but these are nothing compared to what it can do for us today.

But I digress.

Keith Houston, author of Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols & Other Typographical Marks, recently wrote a guest post for the New Yorker.  To discover the origin of the # symbol, Houston returns us to the fourteenth century. Here we find an introduction of the Latin abbreviation “lb,” for the Roman term libra pondo, or “pound weight.”

Later, in the seventeenth century, we can see the “lb” abbreviation is still in use. The cursory penmanship of busy scribes dashed the “lb” abbreviation into its current shape. Enter the #.


Left, from Isaac Newton; right, from Johann Conrad Barchusen’s “Pyrosophia” (1698)
Courtesy of the Othmer Library of Chemical History

Though the form evolved from libra pondo to lb to #, its meaning remained unchanged, as “pound weight,” for many years.

Later, the # symbol was referred to as the “hash mark,” “number sign” and “octothorpe” as it applied to telephone technologies.

It wasn’t until 2007 that the “hashtag” was proposed for use on Twitter to organize content and target specific audience interests.

This infographic was created by Offerpop and walks us through the past six years of the hashtag’s growing application innovations and, therefore,  importance in the social media landscape.

History of #Hashtags Infographic by Offerpop

History of #Hashtags
Infographic by Offerpop

Highlights in the short yet impactful infancy of the Twitter based hashtag include its first Super Bowl appearance in 2011 and its employment as a real-time conversation organizer during the Arab Spring later that same year.

Today, hashtags allow Twitter users to categorize communications into a simplified searchable and linkable format. However, there are a few rules of etiquette to keep this simplification tool simple:

1: DON’T OVERUSE – Use a maximum of two hashtags in your tweets.

2: KEEP THEM SHORT – Tweets are restricted to 140 characters, you don’t want a hashtag to take up 50% of the letters in your tweet.

3: DEFINE YOUR TAG – A tag directory, such as, can give your tag a meaning. you can also search for the meaning of existing tags.

4: NO SPACES – Spaces preceding the hashtag will break the link.

As users find innovative ways to apply new meaning and applications to the hashtag, its story will continue to evolve. I wonder what this historically rich symbol will imply in the future. Will Millenials replace “pound” with “hastag” once and for all? Will the shape of the # symbol morph again?

Undoubtedly, distance will be gained between my first ’70s version and whatever is to come in the future.


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Mentor Up!

Portfolio review practice Photo by Ashley Shantel Hill

Portfolio review practice
Photo by Ashley Shantel Hill

After attending a weekend portfolio building workshop at University of Oregon’s SOJC, I was reminded of the power of mentorship.

Many of us, at one time or another, have benefited from a personal or professional mentor in our lives. In fact, Public/Private Ventures conducted a study for Big Brothers Big Sisters and found that after 18 months of meeting with their “Bigs,” “Littles” were:

  • 46% less likely to begin using illegal drugs
  • 27% less likely to begin using alcohol
  • 52% less likely to skip school
  • 37% less likely to skip a class
  • 33% less likely to hit someone

But what does this look like in the professional world?

Erica Ciszek speaks with Brian Bradley about his portfolio Photo by Ashley Shantel Hill

Erica Ciszek speaks with Brian Bradley about his portfolio
Photo by Ashley Shantel Hill

Traditionally, professional mentorships consisted of a learned authority figure granting wisdom and knowledge to a newcomer. This model provides a safe and supportive environment where skills can be built and lessons can be learned with a safety net in place.

Today, mentors realize that a two-way relationship creates a “learning organization.” When business leaders welcome the fresh perspectives of young industry novices, the return on investment can lead to organizational growth.

Shared Ideas Photo by Ashley Shantel Hill

Shared Ideas
Photo by Ashley Shantel Hill

Marina Khidekel’s article in Bloomberg Businessweek clarifies a few mentoring strategy terms utilized by business leaders today.

  • “Peer mentoring” or a “lean in circle” used by Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg, consists of similar-minded individuals meeting to share with and support one another.
  • “Reverse mentoring” compliment of former General Electric’s Chairman, Jack Welch,  occurs when younger employees help older employees stay current.
  • “Speed mentoring” events hosted by New York Women in Communications facilitate a speed dating style exchange between potential mentors and mentees.
Kathryn Kuttis leads our informative and collaborative workshop Photo by Ashley Shantel Hill

Kathryn Kuttis leads our informative and collaborative workshop
Photo by Ashley Shantel Hill

Each organization must navigate its own mentorship approach based on internal culture and objective goals. But, ultimately, the safety nets for creative growth can be found and harnessed on all levels.

Thank you to the many and memorable mentors and mentees who have bravely ventured into the uncertain world of personal and professional growth!

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November 15, 2013 · 6:52 am

It’s The Most Messagy Time of the Year

Image courtesy of anthonycz at 123RF

Image courtesy of anthonycz at 123RF

As the holidays approach, we may be bracing ourselves for message overload. Mailboxes are stuffed with pamphlets and newsletters. Inboxes are loaded with bold-faced, unread emails asking for donations. Petition slingers line the streets. And newspapers tip the scale at 4 pounds of sale ads.

No one is plotting a daily dose of guilt for us. We are not the designated prey of vicious marketing hounds. But it feels like it sometimes.

This is a volume issue: quantity and intensity.

So, in these days of mass messaging, how can organizations stand out and harness our support? David Wallis’ recent article in The New York Times highlights a few issues and solutions.

Wallis addresses an increase in quantity by citing the National Center for Charitable Statistics study that showed an increase in the number of registered nonprofit organizations by more than 21 percent between 2001 and 2011.

In addition, Wallis describes the intensity of messaging as shock, noise and vulgar expression. We’ve all seen examples of messaging turn-offs. More is not always better.

However, intensity, if done well, can be compelling and can incite action. It can even be fun and, more importantly, sharable.

McCann Erickson’s Melbourne marketing team created the “Dumb Ways to Die” campaign for Metro Trains in 2012. The goal was to increase safety around the train station. Make safety appealing to young people. Hmmm. That’s a tough one.

McCann decided to go with funny, irreverent, a little gross and super catchy. And they nailed it!

The original song and video went viral. Mobile apps followed and even an interactive game starring the video’s animated characters. The likable and sharable campaign spurred social media interests to do the legwork for Metro Trains.

Is creating the next viral video the right answer for every organization? Not necessarily. Instead, message creators should consider segmenting their key publics as much as possible. One BIG idea, even if you crank up the volume, will not be heard and certainly not responded to by everyone.

In this year’s sea of holiday messaging, ask yourself “What catches my attention?” And more importantly, “What messages compel me to act? And why?”

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November 15, 2013 · 3:00 am

Data Visualization: Then and Now

Data visualization is a hot topic. Business leaders in a variety of industries are learning about and making room for infographics in their public relations, marketing and advertising plans. Infographics are a great tactic when large concepts or amounts of information need simplification – not omission – to increase message accessibility and absorption within key publics.

Alex Lundry, VP and Director of Research at TargetPoint, explains that “we should expect to see more visualizations used for messaging purposes … And add visual thinking to our citizenship toolkit.”

In a 2011 interview with The European, visionary George Dyson claimed, “Information is cheap, but meaning is expensive.” With tsunamis of input – compliments of the digital age – bombarding our daily lives, it is increasingly difficult to distill data. It is even more difficult to find meaning within all of that data.

Though I refer to data visualization as a ‘hot topic,’ that is not to say that it is a new topic. The search for meaning in a sea of information has been a challenge throughout history.

Infographic: Library of Congress via The New Yorker

The above infographic came to my attention via Gareth Cook’s recent article in The New Yorker. Cook describes President Lincoln’s “Slave Map” as heavily shaded in regions with a high slave population.

By cross-referencing demographics with region, Lincoln was able to see opportunities for pro-Union support in the South.

This simple infographic allowed Lincoln to view the South as a political landscape. And it afforded him a meaningful and, therefore, useful context. The states were no longer simply Union or Confederate; their individual complexities became a source of hope.

Like Lundry, Dyson and Lincoln, we are appreciators of information. But what we truly desire is meaning. And data visualization helps us transform chaos into clarity.

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November 8, 2013 · 9:57 pm


Image courtesy of Marina Kuchenbecker at 12RF

Image courtesy of Marina Kuchenbecker at 12RF

My Strategic PR Communication class took a turn toward reflection this past week. We talked about the importance of making time to ruminate.

Construction of quality written and visual materials requires creativity. And creativity takes time. A flash of inspiration may trigger the creative process. But, from there, it is just that … a process.

I took this notion to heart and set aside a few hours today to let my brain breathe.

My goal was to abandon self-imposed expectations and the guilt that is often attached to an afternoon of ‘down time.’

Autumn in Oregon is a lot like spring with a golden color palette. The weather shifts from moment to moment. In any direction, a unique cell of activity can be seen in the sky. A quarter turn can be the difference between silver sheets of falling rain and stark white, billowy clouds that show just how blue a blue sky can be.

I walked through the hay fields, I listened to the rustling leaves and, most importantly, I let my mind wander.

Mt. Pisgah, Eugene, Ore. by Heather Lawless

Effortlessly, I began to connect the streaming jumble of thoughts and ideas into usable compositions. Mental snippets – once disjointed and without context – transformed into cohesive solutions.

To write, tell stories and communicate are nebulous endeavors. Though we have rules of thumb to guide us, there is no one ‘right’ way to do them. To honor the creative process, instead of demanding results from ourselves, is imperative.

Brilliance happens. But, in my experience, anything of value requires revision and the willingness to deconstruct and rethink.

Though my afternoon produced clarity for a few current projects, the real gem came in the form of reaffirmation of this truth: Take the time, honor the process and the finished product will blossom.


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