Food Stamp Participation Reaches All-Time High in Vermont During Holiday SeasonBurlington, VT, December 2, 2008 – While many in Vermont were savoring Thanksgiving treats last week, others were signing up for food assistance; 60,062 Vermonters, almost 1 in 10, now participate in the Food Stamp Program according to data released by the Department for Children and Families. This number is up by over 1,500 in just one month, up 7,000 since this time last year, and represents a record high for Vermont.According to Angela Smith-Dieng, Food Stamp Outreach & Policy Specialist at the Vermont Campaign to End Childhood Hunger, “The upsurge in participation may be in part due to policy changes that took effect on October 1st. However, given the downturn in the economy coupled with high food and fuel costs, the increase may have more to do with increased need. With hunger on the rise across Vermont, increased participation indicates that more Vermonters are taking advantage of this critical nutrition assistance.”Food stamps are a USDA entitlement program designed to respond quickly to increased need. For a household that is struggling financially, infusing food dollars into their budget frees up money for other expenses. At the same time, by participating in the program they are more likely to be in good health and succeed in school and at work. Thanks to changes made to the program by the Agency of Human Services, thousands more Vermonters will be eligible for these benefits as of January 1, 2009.Smith-Dieng says: “We’re glad that more Vermonters are receiving the food benefits they are entitled to. Nevertheless, 1 in 3 Vermonters are eligible but not participating – we are working hard to spread the word about the expanding program. We invite every Vermonter to spread the word about this program to neighbors who might be struggling: through school and congregation newsletters, local senior centers, town clerks offices, and health clinics.”More information and materials about the Food Stamp Program is available at www.vermontfoodhelp.com(link is external).The Vermont Campaign to End Childhood Hunger is a statewide nonprofit organization that combats hunger through advocacy, education, and technical assistance. Since 1993, VTCECH has been providing communities with the tools to create and sustain local programs that feed children in need. Information on VTCECH, hunger in Vermont and federal nutrition programs is available at www.vtnohunger.org(link is external).###
More than 8.5 million California residents, including USC students, faculty and staff, are expected to drop, cover and hold at 10:20 a.m. today as part of the largest earthquake drill in state history.The number of anticipated participants in the event indicates an increased awareness of earthquakes and their potential damage, said Mark Benthien, director of communication, education and outreach at the Southern California Earthquake Center.“This drill will be unique in that so many people will be doing it as a result of informed decision making considering the chances of an earthquake,” Benthien said.The Great California Shakeout aims to educate participants on what to do when an earthquake occurs and help test and prepare emergency response teams. USC students are encouraged to take part in the drill.The Great California Shakeout started in 2008 when scientists said Southern California was long overdue for a 9.5-magnitude earthquake, similar to the 9.5-magnitude Great Chilean Earthquake of 1960.“Research over many decades has confirmed we are long overdue for a big [earthquake] so this drill is more relevant than ever,” Benthien said. “The nature of the landscape that [has] earthquake faults means we wont have a 10.0 — that is impossible, but we can have one that is close.”USC is located directly above an earthquake fault. The fault, however, only reacts every 500 years according to Benthien.Navid Nastar, an adjunct assistant professor of civil and structural engineering, said most USC buildings have been designed or retrofitted to satisfy the requirements of applicable building codes.“The majority of the buildings [at USC] are expected to stay relatively life-safe in the event of a large and unlikely earthquake,” Nastar said.He said one of the most important things to remember during an earthquake is to remain calm and to stay indoors because the exteriors of buildings normally sustain the most damage.“The worst thing to do is to panic and rush for exits [because] the falling objects from the façade of a building can be extremely dangerous.” Nastar said.In the event of an earthquake, USC Fire, Safety and Emergency Planning will station a Building Emergency Response team in each building to ensure the safety of people inside, according to Bill Regensburger, director of USC Fire, Safety and Emergency Planning.Mike Mahbobian, a sophomore majoring in business administration, said he has mixed feelings about the drill.“It’s a good way to improve earthquake preparedness, even though most people are likely to respond to their instincts rather than drill instructions,” Mahbobian said.