On Saturday, May 16th, 2020, I teamed up with the City of Pittsburgh's Inclusive Innovation Team to host an online cookie decorating playshop to raise awareness about the census!
We had about 50 people reserve Census Cookie Kits to follow along during the Facebook live session. For anyone who missed out on a kit, I posted my recipes so that anyone could bake their own set of cookies to decorate (which I saw at least one person did!). As of today, the video has been viewed over 500 times and will be captioned and kept available for anyone to reference for future census cookie decorating!
An image of the Census Cookie Kits attendees received as part of the playshop.
How were the cookie kits distributed?
This was the first event I've done where we mixed a little bit of the real world with the digital.
We were able to arrange for reserved kits to be picked up at La Dorita Cooks in Sharpsburg and worked to ensure everyone's safety as much as possible (like pushing out everyone's kits across a 6 ft table with a stick!). If you aren't familiar with La Dorita, it is a beautiful 4,000-square-foot co-working commercial kitchen and event space owned and operated by Josephine and Gaston Oria. During the current pandemic, La Dorita has offered their space as a pick-up location for fresh meals and groceries provided by members like Heather McCormack Scrima of Dinner by Heather.
Equipped with my mask and stick for safe cookie kit pick-ups!
Why does the census matter and why should you care?
Not only is completing the census constitutionally mandatory, it determines political representation and federal funding allocated to each state.
Focusing on the stats that impact our region, the state of Pennsylvania lost a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives based on census data from 2010; we previously had 19 seats, but now we have 18.
Of the $675B distributed across the country according to census data, PA received $26.8B to fund programs like Medicaid, SNAP, and Pell Grants. In Allegheny County, we rely on that $26.8B distribution to support our public transportation, food security, and healthcare.
What do cookies have to do with the census?
Cookies can take any hard-to-digest topic and make it more palatable! This is the same belief that drives my cookie activism; they are excellent tools for making any educational topic a lot more fun, engaging, and effective!
We had several parents join in with their children, and the follow-up images that were posted online were both a testament to the high levels of engagement but also just so heartwarming to see!
Kiddos in Pittsburgh spending their Saturday afternoon learning about the census through cookies!
Using each of the three cookie designs as talking points, we learned about the following:
1) For the first time in history, you can take the census online.
"Take the census online! Your info matters!"
If you go to my2020census.gov, it should only take you about 5-10 minutes to complete the census. The site offers translations in 13 languages, and your information is kept secure and confidential.
Although making the census available to take online was to increase access, we're also becoming highly aware of a digital divide during this pandemic. I mentioned local programs like Neighborhood Allies' Beyond the Laptops that provides computers to students and families in our region, but how there are also several individuals spearheading collection drives to distribute old tablets and more to those in need.
2) The largest demographic impacted by food security issues in our region (PA) are children.
The 2nd largest federally-funded program in PA based on census data is SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). This program provides funding to low-income households to purchase fresh foods. Many households who might not have been considered or qualified as low-income before have fallen on hard times due to the pandemic. SNAP provides emergency assistance for anyone to maintain access to groceries.
Our cookies were pie charts showing percentages of the four populations in PA that rely most on SNAP: 44% children, 43% people with disabilities, 12% older adults, 1% able-bodied adults without dependents.
3) Census data helps provide childcare services for both low-income households and non-traditional parents.
The last design we did is the WIC PA logo.
We learned about a specific federal program called WIC (Women, Infants, Children) which also addresses food security specifically for pregnant women and children up to 5 years of age. WIC PA services 67 counties, and there are at least 11 clinics in Allegheny County that provides WIC services including free health screenings, breastfeeding support, and Farmer's Market vouchers for fresh food. Families eligible for WIC can include grandparents, single parents, and foster parents as long as they are looking after any children up to 5 years of age and need assistance.
The census takes 10 minutes of your time and will determine the next 10 years of your life.
Please make sure you're counted and then help make sure no one is left out!
To learn more and get involved - https://becounted2020.org/