COVID-19 and Local Food Resources

Recently food advocates involved in Share Our Table, a regional coalition focused on food security, gathered virtually to discuss COVID-19 and its impact on food security here in the community.  

To help during this uncertain time, we pulled together some resources for food advocacy organizations and those you serve. Please feel free to share with your networks. 

Working in a food environment? Best practices to prevent infection: 

Our community members may be facing loss of wages due to school or business shut-downs related to COVID-19. Please consider sharing the following tools and assistance programs with them.  

211 

This is our area’s central database for community resources. If your program has adjusted its hours, locations, services, etc. please make sure to update your information in 211! Email lpaulsen@uwmidlands.org with any updates. 

The 211 website houses all information 211 has about community resources. You can search the database online or review COVID-19 specific resources there. Feel free to link to this site from your own page if your clients are looking for information about community resources. 

SNAP 

SNAP (formerly called food stamps) benefits help people put food on the table. To see if a family or individual qualifies, contact the Food Bank’s SNAP Outreach Team at 1-855-444-5556. Learn more about SNAP.  

WIC 

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, popularly known as WIC, is a nutrition program for pregnant, breastfeeding women and families with children younger than five.  

  • Nebraskans, view the WIC brochure in English and Spanish 
  • Iowans, connect with WIC 

Share Our Table

Want to learn more about Share Our Table? The coalition was created to implement the Healthy Food For All Plan and is run by a regional convener, The Wellbeing Partners. Contact Sheena Helgenberger for more information.

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COVID-19: Why Paid Leave is Good for People and Business

Right now, our country and the world are experiencing a public health crisis that we were not prepared to handle. It is obvious that COVID-19 is causing many changes in our communities and workplaces and that the effects of this pandemic are something that we will continue to experience in the coming weeks, months, and maybe years. However, not all changes that will result from COVID-19 will be negative. As we have seen over the past few weeks, more and more workplaces have adopted or expanded their paid leave benefits as a response to COVID-19.   

As this public health crisis grows so does the need for paid leave. It is interesting to see how this pandemic is transforming the way people, elected leaders, and employers look at paid leave for their employees. Over the last few years, the debate on benefits and disadvantages of offering paid leave became a hot topic and now it is at the top of everyone’s mind. Studies have shown that there are benefits to employers that provide paid leave, such asreducing job turnover, reducing presenteeism (which is defined as “being present at the job but performing at a reduced capacity due to illness or injury), reducing the frequency of workplace injury, and allowing employees to receive preventive health care which helps reduce the cost of employer-sponsored health insurance premiums. Yet, these incentives should not be the only reason to offer paid leave benefits to employeesThe American workforce is changing and the value that employees place on a work/life balance has increased.  

Moreover, what we are experiencing today is impacting the mental wellbeing of our communities. The absence of this policy is detrimental to the mental wellbeing of employees during this time.  As Tonya Vyhlidal from The Wellbeing Partners discussed in her blog post, COVID-19 and Social Embracing, this is affecting everyone and specifically affecting mental health and wellbeing. We are facing uncertainty because we do not know when we will be back at our place of employment, when our lives will return to normal, or when we will be able to see our friends and family. It is something that is scary, and we must acknowledge that this uncertainty is just one more thing that places burden on employees and their mental wellbeing. By providing paid leave during COVID-19, employees can take time off when they are sick which helps reduce the risk of spread. This practice is being recommended to worksites as a response to COVID-19 in conjunction with advising workers to stay home if they are sick, using telehealth services, and using wellness programs to educate on hygiene and disease prevention. When employers provide paid leave, they give the opportunity to their employees to take care of themselves and their family and not have to worry about their paycheck. It allows employees to prioritize their lives and their wellbeing instead of their work.  

Here at The Wellbeing Partners, our CEO, COO, and our Board of Directors worked quickly to respond and implement an Employee Emergency Leave plan. As an employee, I can take up to 80 hours of paid Employee Emergency Leave to take care of myself or a family member during this time. This means a lot to me because I can help my sister with her schoolwork, and I can take care of myself and my mental wellbeing. It is important to me to acknowledge that I am lucky and privileged to be able to prioritize my mental health and wellbeing, because not everyone is able to do this. I am grateful that my employer prioritizes my wellbeing. 

As I stated before, I believe that there will be positive changes that come from this crisis. I see this in organizations here in Omaha that mobilized and put in policies in place for their employees to be able to work from home and take paid leave. We have already seen changes take place federally with the implementation of The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA or Act) which is in effect now until the end of the yearI hope that in the future, everyone has access to paid leave benefits because it is good for business but even better for people and families.  

Please take care of yourself and if you are in need of resources please visit our portal where you will be able to find COVID-19 resources.  

I’m sending all the positive vibes your way, 

Claudia 

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Five Ways to Lead Kids During COVID-19

Have you felt like your world has turned upside down?  Most of us can relate.  When our places of work closed or moved to remote-only, we were all left scrambling to adjust to this new and indefinite “normal.”  There is no denying that this is challenging for adultsand we must also consider how it is even more difficult for our children. So how do we support them in this time? How do we to teach our children about COVID-19 and help them to cope with the affects that it is having our on daily lives? 

I want to share the top 5 ways to lead and love your children well through this transitional time. In each section, there are some helpful resources for you and your family. 

Share the facts.

Our children crave understanding in the same ways that we do. It’s our job to help give them facts at their level of understanding. For my 2-year-old, this sounds like, “There are germs at the library. Germs make us sick, so the library has closed. The library will be open again when the germs are gone, and then we will go back.” For your elementary-age-child it might sound like, “When people are together in groups, they could share the germs that are giving people COVID-19. Until the doctors figure out how to treat this illness, we can’t be around our friends or other people. Soon, doctors will know how to help people and we will be able to go back to school and seeing friends.” Check out these resources to help share facts about the situation with your children: 

Give them ways to help.

No one likes the way it feels to be powerless against something that is scary. Thankfully, we are not powerless against COVID-19 and neither are our children. This is an excellent time to teach (yes, teach) your children the proper way to wash their hands and how to cover their coughs and sneezes. Just like adults, they probably aren’t doing it “the right” way. Tell them that good handwashing and careful control of germs will help control the COVID-19 spread. Here are some great “germ” experiments to do while at home during this time:

In addition to practicing good hygiene, there are many other ways our children can be helpers now. Ask them what they want to do to contribute.  Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • - Write letters to the elderly who are quarantined 
  • - Send thank-you notes to our over-worked health care professionals 
  • - Sew DIY masks and donate them to care facilities in need:   
  • - Draw inspirational pictures and write words of encouragement on your driveway for families to see while on walks.

Validate their feelings.

In a time like this, it is understandable that our children would feel disappointment, fear, or sadness. Encourage your children to talk about how they are feeling and be sure that those feelings are validated. You might say, “Of course you are sad that you cannot see your teacher” or “Being stuck at home is hard for me, too.”  Minimizing or dismissing our children’s feelings—even if they seem trivial to us—will not help our children cope with this challenging situation. Sit with your child to talk, write, or draw about how they are feeling. These resources can help you and your child work through their emotions about COVID-19, as well:

Be careful with screen time.

It’s no secret that there are some terrifying things on the TV and social media these days. As adults, we are able to recognize the impact that media-overload as on our stress levels, but our children often cannot. Children will be needing screen time to do schoolwork and to connect with friends and family, both very important things, but be wary of too much mindless screen time. Screen time in general can cause an increase in anxiety for children, but even more so if it means that they are being exposed to worrisome content they cannot fully understand. Check out this these resources to help minimize screen time for your children:

Engage.

At the end of the day, the most powerful tool in helping your children cope with COVID-19 is you! Use this time to engage with your child in ways that we don’t get to in “normal” life. Play games, learn together, and have fun. These days are hard, but we can create amazing memories with our children during this time!

Stay healthy and continue to follow along with The Wellbeing Partners for more resources! 

  • Claire Brown 
  • Youth Wellness Coordinator, The Wellbeing Partners  

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COVID-19 and Social Embracing

As COVID-19, also called the coronavirus, continues to spread, our nation is in a unique and highly unusual situation – a situation where there aren’t answers, there’s little way to know when the pandemic will end or get better, and limited opportunities for people to engage in positive social activities to help them cope. Everyone is affected. This virus does not target specific people or populations – it simply impacts everyone regardless of age, race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status and that is precisely what makes it so scary.  

There is so much information being released by the media regarding the importance of social distancing and encouraging people to distance themselves from social gatherings and social interactionswant to suggest we practice “physical distancing” while adopting a new terminology: social embracing. We are embracing the importance of social interaction and the need and desire to connect; right now, we should demonstrate alternate methods of social interaction through physical distancing. Being socially wise while using physical distancing is really what our country needs not social isolation and increased loneliness and depression.  

Many people are already working hard just to have the basic life necessitiesWhen individuals are tackling the basics of housing, food, and safety, the brain works harder. That’s when fear and anxiety can rush into the brain. While this can be a normal response to a crisis or threat, it doesn’t have to be. This is why everyone is stocking up on food and buying copious amounts of toilet paper and hand sanitizer: it’s normal, but not necessary! There are tools and resources available to help people manage their fear and anxiety. While no solution is a fix-all, many of these resources, if used, can help regulate mood and improve an individual’s ability to cope. Below I list several resources for business and individual use – I hope that you will find them helpful.  

Individual and workplace mental and emotional wellbeing  

    •  - The World Health Organization recently released mental health tips to support people impacted by the Coronavirus. These tips include recommendations on how to positively cope in these troubling times and specific advice was given for health-care workers, caretakers, and people in isolation.   
    • - The World Health Organization released the coping with stress document that breaks down the things you can do daily to support your overall emotional, mental, and physical wellbeing.  
    • - The CDC’s managing anxiety and stress web page provides tips and resources specific to stress and coping.  
    • - The American Psychological Association and the social distancing to keep you safe webpage provides insight into social distancing and how it can help reduce fear and how to stay connected without becoming socially isolated.  
    • - Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Tips for Social Distancing, Quarantine, and Isolation During and Infectious Disease Outbreak document provides excellent advice on how pandemic situations impact human behavior and mental health.  
    • - Employee Assistance Programs or (EAP) are often available from your employer. Look for signs on a bulletin board, promotions on your internal website, or contact an HR representative to help you connect.  
    • - Telehealth or Digital Health Care services may be provided by your employer through your employee health benefits program. If so, now is a good time to download the app and get the information you need to help you stay healthy and well.  
  • Individual mental and emotional wellbeing apps to help you relax. 
    • - Headspace is a meditation and mindfulness app that has been validated by several scientific studies. The app can be added to any phone, tablet, or computer and has a free trial option. Perfect for the next few weeks of social distancing. 
    • - Calm is a free meditation, relaxation, and sleep app that can be downloaded onto any phone, tablet, and computer. This app offers an enhanced free option for teachers and educators. 
    • - Breethe App has a free trial option and can be downloaded from the Apple App Store or from Google Play very easily. This app is very popular in the medical community.  
    • - Down Dog is a yoga/exercise app who is currently providing a free membership for anyone through March 30 (at least) 

My hope is that you will use and share these resources to help with the fear, anxiety, and isolation that you and/or others might be feeling during this time. We are all in this together. We all have our own worries, anxieties, and concerns about how this situation will impact us. Right now, the best thing you can do is take care of your overall wellbeing. Each day you wake up know that you’ve got this, you have choices even if they are altered. You have resources to help you, and NO ONE is in this alone.  

Take this situation day by day, reach out and call a friend or family member, enjoy some fresh air, read a good book, watch a great movie or series, get creative and cook, color, paint, use your new apps, or play fun games. All the things you wish you had more time for before, you have time for now. Be present and know this too shall pass.   

Sending you light and healing energy, 

Tonya 

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Unpacking the Jargon of Public Health and Workplace Wellness

Back in the 1980s, employers picked up the tab for unhealthy employee behaviors like smoking in the office. Worksite wellness programs first got their start almost 40 years ago with an emphasis on smoking cessation and other physical issues like fitness and nutrition. Today, we know that true wellness acknowledges that the body, mind, and spirit are tied together within the eight dimensions of wellness 

The Wellbeing Partners seeks to bridge discussion between workplaces and community to connect the language commonly used in each. For worksites, this means the introduction of the social determinants of health. 

As it turns out, the dimensions of wellness and the social determinants of health are two ways of talking about the same thing: total person wellbeing. The two concepts complement each other to create an enhanced impact for individuals, workplaces, and community. The dimensions of wellness dig deeper than just the typical understanding of fitness and nutrition as ‘health’ and go on to address individuals as multi-faceted people who need total-person care to achieve complete wellbeing. The social determinants of health define the societal framework that may adversely affect an individual’s (or community’s) ability to be well in a way that is beyond their control. 

The Social Determinants of Health 

  • Economic Stability (including issues like food and housing) 
  • Education 
  • Health Care 
  • Neighborhood and Environment 
  • Social & Community Context 

The Eight Dimensions of Wellness

  • Emotional/Mental 
  • Environmental 
  • Financial 
  • Intellectual
  • Occupational 
  • Physical 
  • Social 
  • Spiritual (Purpose) 

You can see how they overlap: 

  • Economic Stability = Financial, Physical, Occupational, Spiritual, and Emotional/Mental 
  • Education = IntellectualSocialOccupationaland Emotional/Mental 
  • Health Care = FinancialPhysical, Occupational, and Emotional/Mental 
  • Neighborhood and Environment = SocialEnvironmentalPhysical, and Emotional/Mental 
  • Social & Community Context = SocialSpiritual, and Emotional/Mental  

Notice anything? First, you’ll see that Emotional/Mental wellbeing threads through each social determinant, because all parts of our lives impact our emotional health and mental wellbeing. It would also be fair to say that the seven other aspects of wellbeing all feed into our mental health. Poor financial health, for example, would lead to stress and anxiety about security. Poor social health would lead to loneliness and depression. Lack of purpose (spiritual health) would make one feel lost and without direction. A cluttered home environment could lead to distraction and frustration – and so on with each dimension. 

Secondly, you may be able to identify additional ways that the dimensions of wellbeing play into the social determinants of health – ways that we don’t even list above. This is an excellent picture of the ways that wellbeing is intertwined into our lives. Rarely, if ever, can we separate one entirely from another, and the impacts of our societal structure are no different. Look at the list again and think about the huge hit on a person’s wellbeing if one of these needs is not met. Economic instability, for example, can cause financial anxiety, limitation on physical wellbeing through lack of nutritious food options, occupational stress through job insecurity or lack of employer care, unfulfillment of purpose, and of course the overall mental toll taken by depletion in each area of wellness. 

It’s not something we can overlook, and to think about the total health of our employees and community members, we need to look at the dimensions of wellness and the social determinants of health together. 

In the next several blog posts and other content you can find on our social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram) and in the portal, we will share resources about COVID-19 as they relate to the dimensions of wellness and the social determinants of health so you can hopefully think about how the spread of the virus may be impacting community members in ways beyond just the physical.  

To reach out with questions, please email us at info@thewellbeingpartners.org.

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You Do You: Resources to Thrive

Since the workday has turned on its head, “social isolation” has become a mainstream term and you may be left wondering how to thrive during this time of uncertainty. The Wellbeing Partners is here to connect you to resources to support your mental, financial, and physical wellbeing, as well as a host of other resources – because we care. During this state of change, we want to provide helpful tools to manage challenges and help each of you thrive. 

We are a shop of workplace and community health preventionists. That means that we believe that small, early actions by each of us as individuals, and as a community, prevents illness and disease downstream. Together, we support individuals and communities to care for about the whole being through the eight dimensions of wellness and through the root causes of health like food, housing, education, neighborhood and environment called the social determinants of healthThe community and workplace’s response to social isolation and remote working during COVID – 19 is a great example of prevention to save lives in the future. 

We are curating a collection of resources, guidance, and support for our network of members, partners, and the greater metro area. Please use this space to navigate through some of the personal and professional challenges that you are facing during this time. Our website ‘Portal’ will be updated continually and the resources will be shared via The Wellbeing Partners' Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

I am grateful for an incredible team of compassionate, hard-working leaders who will be writing about their areas of expertise and sharing their connections to resources to ensure that we are a value add to our community. I am also inspired by our incredible Board, including all metro area health departments, and our members including all area health systems. These are our true public health heroes who are working tirelessly to manage risk for all of us. 

Take good care and check back with us for information to support you during this time. 

 Be well! 

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