A National Resource to Support Excellence in Community Action
Last Revised: Jan 3, 2017 - Initial Posting: Jul 23, 2004
Purpose

The Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley regularly conducts research on poverty-related issues to promote public awareness that will lead to subsequent policy and programmatic responses.

Description

The mission of the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley (CACLV) is to improve the quality of life by building a community in which all people have access to economic opportunity, the ability to pursue that opportunity, and a voice in the decisions that affect their lives.  A Values Statement has been developed as a framework for CACLV’s overall approach.  The Values Statement encompasses the agency’s multi-faceted role as:

  • An advocate
  • A community development organization
  • A human services agency
  • A non-profit corporation
  • An employer

As an advocate, CACLV believes it is important to operate as a “Think Tank on Policy Issues” at the local level.  The agency regularly conducts research on poverty-related issues as the first part of a strategic process aimed at building community support and involvement.

Two issues addressed on a continuing basis are Homelessness and Hunger.  Other topics have also been the focus of studies, such as Predatory Lending, Homeowners Insurance and the Inner-City Neighborhood, etc.

Stages of CACLV’s advocacy efforts include:

  • Research
  • Public Awareness (i.e. through a press conferences followed by media and editorial coverage to affect the public’s understanding and community attitudes, voting, development of public policies, programmatic responses, etc.)
  • Negotiate/Develop Actions

Homelessness

CACLV provides staffing for the Lehigh Valley Coalition on Affordable Housing (LVCoAH).  The goal of the coalition is to ensure that everyone in the region has housing that is affordable and safe and complies with local housing codes.

A study on homelessness is conducted by the Coalition each year and published as the Annual Lehigh Valley Shelter Census.  The Shelter Census presents information involving ten shelter facilities that collect data from every homeless man, woman or child who is given shelter.  An Annual Shelter Census Statistical Report Form is used to collect information related to either to families or individuals alone who are given shelter.  A Fact Sheet is published to accompany the Shelter Census.

Web site resources on homelessness include:

Hunger

CACLV operates the Second Harvest Food Bank of Lehigh Valley that distributed more than 4 million pounds of food to over 42,000 individuals in 2002.  To increase public awareness and response to the problem of hunger, reports have been published to help create an understanding of why people need emergency food assistance - see Continued Hunger in a Valley of Plenty and Hunger Survey Instrument (June 2007)

An Executive Summary provides key findings related to:

  • Housing
  • Health Care
  • Child Nutrition
  • Federal Food and Nutrition Programs
  • Income, Finances and Alternative Financial Services Systems

The Report also contains a range of information on hunger from The National Nutrition Safety Net (USDA) including:

  • The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) under USDA
  • Cash Assistance Programs
  • Medical Assistance Programs
  • School Breakfast Program
  • School Lunch Program
  • Food Stamp Program
  • Special Supplemental Food for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)
  • Income Guidelines for Federal Food Assistance Programs

Initial research occurred in 1992 and 1995.  A follow-up study (The Lines That Just Won’t End: A Report on Those Who Need Emergency Food Assistance in the Lehigh Valley) was conducted in 2002 with involvement of college students.  This report was based on interviews conducted at twelve emergency food distribution sites.  200 people were interviewed and surveys were conducted in both English and Spanish.

Web site resources on hunger that are provided under “Resources for More Information” include:

  • Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) that works to improve public policies to eradicate hunger and malnutrition in the U.S.
  • No Kid Hungry that works to end hunger and poverty in the U.S. and abroad by mobilizing industries and individuals and creating community wealth to promote lasting change
  • Feeding America (formerly America's Second Harvest) working to create a hunger-free America by distributing food and grocery products through a nationwide network of certified affiliates, increasing public awareness of domestic hunger, and advocating for policies that benefit America’s hungry
  • Congressional Hunger Center providing a bi-partisan approach to training leaders in the fight against hunger in the U.S. and worldwide
  • World Hunger Year that attacks the root causes of hunger and poverty by promoting effective and innovative community-based solutions that create self-reliance, economic justice and food security
  • Bread for the World (BFW) that is a nationwide Christian citizens movement seeking justice for the world’s hungry people by lobbying our nation’s decision makers and sponsors the BFW Institute that seeks justice for hungry people by engaging in research and education on policies related to hunger and development
Outcomes

CACLV uses its research studies to attract attention to poverty issues (news stories, editorials) and to educate the public and decision-makers, especially on public policy matters like federal funding.  The data is also used in needs assessments for grant proposals and other agencies and local governments use them for related purposes like HUD comprehensive plans.  An advocacy staff position has been established at the agency’s Second Harvest Food Bank to work on campaigns to convince more schools to open school breakfast programs and summer feeding sites.

Information on results of CACLV's advocacy activities are detailed in the agency's annual reports:

Contact

Alan Jennings, Executive Director
610.691.5620