Bloggers are the unsung heroes of transcribing life as it happens with a unique point of view to help avid readers shape their perception of a topic otherwise we would have no insight to...that's why when Chicago native Ranjini Iyer recently posted a new blog article off-topic from her normal uplifting momma blog Momslop.com, it caught the attention of how important, valuable and action-oriented all blog platforms have.
So buckle up, and get ready for an adventure of how any bog, can be used for good! Ranjini brilliantly illustrates for us how to use our voice to be the "good" in the world. After, all here at DPW we believe that joining and collaborating for a cause drives us to improve all communities. Check out her recent blog post that empowers and inspires us "Bloggers to Blog for Good"
It is hard not to get on the soap box for me about women’s rights, children’s rights, environmental causes, education. Don’t even get my started on something like Styrofoam and how I grit my teeth at parties as people merrily hand out food on that horrendous addition to dinnerware collections in homes everywhere. Gauche at the very least, utterly irresponsible at worst. It takes over 500 years to degrade in the landfill!
I didn’t start to blog for good. Coming from me, that would be a very boring blog. I would get preachy and scolding in my tone. School marmish. Plus, it is hardly cool to maintain a holier than thou image at all times. There has to be a finesse to the soap boxing. I am learning than now as I grow older. People just don’t like being told what to do all the time.
My first blog, which I rarely write on anymore was about my everyday struggles as a mom and as a writer trying to get published.
My current blog is momslop.com
It is a collection of interviews of everyday mothers and sometimes non-mothers. From them I try to glean wisdom to live better, thrive better, think clearer. It started as a way to connect with people on a deeper level. That was especially important to me as a person who works in isolation most of the time. I am a writer, a small business owner and a committed stay at home mother. All isolating tasks.
I had not, however, envisioned momslop as being a platform I might ever use to “call to action.” The pretext of the blog was more personal. However, when I heard from a friend about how a community in Chicago was struggling to get basic supplies in the wake of COVID-19 purely because they happen to be the “wrong” zip code, I had to do something. I started by donating supplies. But that didn’t seem enough. I decided to write about it and bring it to the attention of my readers. The issue was about mothers. Their inability to get supplies for their families in what happens to be a difficult, impoverished neighborhood. Here is that post.
"If a parent wants to pack a piece of fruit in a child's lunch... they shouldn't have to take three city buses," Michelle Obama said during a press conference.
While many of us are worrying these days about how we can stock up our pantries and fridges without infecting ourselves with COVID-19, agonizing over masks and sanitizer and gloves, even as we browse well stocked shelves in our suburban groceries, several of our neighbors on Chicago’s south side face a very different problem.
Food Deserts was what Michelle Obama had called them.
Oh and that line about the piece of fruit, she said it at a press conference in 2011.
This is 2020. Not much has changed.
But wait, I stand corrected. A Whole Foods has opened in Englewood since then.
“Englewood remains one of the city's areas of concentrated poverty, ranking fifth in economic hardship out of Chicago's 77 community areas, according to an analysis last year by the Great Cities Institute at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Englewood had the highest percentage of households living in poverty, 48.3 percent, and the third lowest per capita income, $11,281, according to the study.” (Greg Trotter, Chicago Tribune, September, 2017)
To be fair and the Whole Paycheck snide about this chain aside, Whole Foods has provided a place for locals in Englewood to find jobs and for some local vendors to stock their ware. Kudos. But shoppers. Hmm…
Now this may well be a myopic view of the situation on my part. Whole Foods was supposed to be a long term investment in the area. A way to attract other businesses and people into Englewood. Furthermore, I have read that this Whole Foods prices its goods lower than others.
Some might also argue how it brings good food choices to the area. To that particular POV, I have this to put to you to consider. When my cousin was struggling as a new immigrant in San Francisco decades ago, and had only a few dollars to buy food, here is what she did. Did she know that a salad was better for her than say a couple of samosas sold at her local Indian store? Yes, yes, she did. Did they cost the same? Yes. Here then is the explanation for why she didn’t buy the salad. She had money to pay for one solid meal for the day. And she had to stay full all day before she could get another meal at night. So she bought and ate, as you might suspect, the samosas. It kept her fueled to work at her job staying on her feet all day as a healthcare technician for many more hours than a salad might have.
We have all heard similar stories about people choosing to eat at McDonald’s, yes?
Which leads me to this appeal my friend sent me yesterday. She works as a counselor in the Englewood area.
“Please help save lives on the Southside of Chicago,”
the appeal said, as sent to her by her colleague Mary Jo who consults with PRIDE ROC, a social organization based in Englewood.
“The food in the stores is running out. My plea is not just for money this week, it is more urgent, it is for food and care products. If you have any connections for Bulk Distributors (like Sysco etc.) or want to help solicit donations from large food chains or you are going for Bulk or grocery supplies please make calls for sources or buy extra for the families. See the list below.”
She provided a detailed list of items such a soup, beans, paper products, Tylenol and more.
“The Walmarts and Aldis on the Southside are limiting amounts and are out of many products…..”
Walmart and Aldi’s is where the locals shop.
These are Food Deserts. And have always been.
Even after all these years. Even after one of this nation’s most beloved first ladies Michelle Obama made an effort to draw attention to these places.
It has been almost a decade.
Why, I wonder.
Someone I spoke to about this said, it’s old news. There is nothing new about Food Deserts. And so it gets no attention. There is nothing new or exciting about the state of Chicago’s south side. Not the poor condition of the schools, the housing, the dismal crime rates.
Englewood is rated a C- on niche.com, a site that rates neighborhoods. It is how it has always been and given our apathy, always may be.
I am ashamed to say that I didn’t know about the term Food Deserts until recently. I wasn’t naïve to think that the poorer neighborhoods had the extent of plenty the wealthier parts of Chicago enjoyed. But I also thought that if there is a grocery store of the same chain here where I live then the same one in a less privileged area should be stocked the same. It’s the same store, isn’t it? Same suppliers, same shelves to fill. I am wrong. It was foolish of me to assume that.
COVID-19 has only made things worse. It has only shown us what a great divide there is between the haves and have nots in our country. Supplies are limited and so who gets first dibs? Not the Englewoods, that’s for sure.
Fresh news or not, it is wrong that my cohorts and I living in the western suburbs of Chicago only have to decide which store to go to and what to buy. And then worry about making sure everything we bring home is clean and oh yes, wash our hands after.
All this, while our fellow mothers and neighbors living less than 25 miles away do not even have access to basic supplies.
Even if this isn’t news and even if it isn’t a great revelation or exciting--poverty rarely is—it is wrong that people should starve because there is a pandemic going on and they aren’t able to or cannot afford to go to far-flung stores to get basic supplies.
I hope this will move you dear reader to do a little bit for your neighbors. Maybe share this with a handful of people you know who might care. This is a new blog with a small following. Not many people will read this, perchance.
But I believe this:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead.
And so here is the rest of the appeal.
“Please messenger me if you are willing to drop off items at either an Evanston or West Loop location. Or if you have connections. Or you could have bulk items delivered to my home. Last week delivered over 60 packages, each week we would like to increase and we will not be able to.
Of course, you can always donate financially to Pride Roc on my FB page or at www.priderocchicago.org We are all in this together- Please help save lives in Chicago's Black Communities.”
A bit about African Americans and COVID-19. It has been noticed that COVID-19 is infecting and killing the black population more than any other group. A simple reason could be as follows. As cited by New York Times opinion columnist Jamelle Bouie. “To use just a few, relevant examples, black Americans are more likely to work in service sector jobs, least likely to own a car and least likely to own their homes. They are therefore more likely to be in close contact with other people, from the ways they travel to the kinds of work they do to the conditions in which they live. Today’s disparities of health flow directly from yesterday’s disparities of wealth and opportunity… If black Americans are more likely to suffer the comorbidities that make Covid-19 more deadly, it’s because those ailments are tied to the segregation and concentrated poverty that still mark their communities.”
Please dear, gentle reader, do the right thing.
And if you are reading this and are not from Chicago, I hope you will find a place in your local area to help. An Englewood that’s not far from you. Your neighbors.
If you are interested in donating in kind, please message me for more details.
Personally, here is what I did. I have a cough right now and am avoiding stores. So I ordered cans of food, medicines and more as suggested by the list and had them shipped directly to Mary Jo.
You can too…make a difference that is.
Writing this never once felt for me like I was going outside my comfort level or that it at all was going against the flavor, if you will, of my blog. It was about food, after all. It was about families. Momslop is the term my friend Kelly uses for the dinners she and millions of moms the world over make every single day. In her case, for her family of seven. They are hearty meals, probably not gourmet, probably hastily put together on occasion but they are healthy (mostly) and filling. From that start of getting a recipe or two from my subject mom, my interviews are about my subjects’ as people. About their desires, fears, motivations and more. No advice on mothering or careers or fashion. Just an in depth look into the heart of a fellow mother.
The call to action post, which I hope is the first of many more, was my way of asking the reader to see what it takes for a mother in a less privileged neighborhood to put that meal on the table every single night. Mothers living in food deserts, especially. If she can’t even buy what she needs keep the family fed and clean then this, the richest country in the world has failed its citizens. Well-stocked store shelves are not just for the better-off zip codes.
Now, I find myself with my blog at a place where I want to do more than interviews. I want to seek out avenues that fit the mom slop theme but also bring to attention the issues of everyday human struggles that are near to my heart.
If you, as you’re reading this, and you are thinking about something that may have touched you, made you feel for an issue..... Maybe it was an environmental clean-up program in your community, maybe a school in your area needed some help. Maybe it was the sight of a hungry child in a refugee camp somewhere. It can be hard to know what to do when you see something that tugs at your heart. Maybe you want to do something and are unsure where to start.
Perhaps you read about what you care about on a blog somewhere. A call to action, perhaps. Know that any step you take, any small step be it as simple as forwarding the blog post to another friend who cares about the same thing is an action taken. Perhaps you will feel spurred on to sign up for volunteer duty or even donate a few dollars to the cause. Take that first step even if you’re unsure about what to do. Even calling a friend and telling them to look at the article is a step. a valuable one.
As a blogger who cares about human and environmental issues, I know I would have won if even one reader decided to share my story or even spoke about it to someone else. That is all it takes to affect change. Just one small act.
I didn’t think of blogging this way until I was asked to write this, but the importance of bloggers in bringing information to the community in an honest manner is invaluable. And getting the community to react. Yes, blogs are opinions, not fact and because of that, there will always be a bias, a tilt to it. However, if one can find the right set of blogs to follow, one finds that they also play a role of information provider, especially in these times when the media is often perceived with suspicion.
The blogger is an individual who comes with an inherent set of biases. One must absolutely understand that. Indeed, more often than not, their blog is based on these biases. But they also provide an insight at the grassroots level to issues.
Consider a blogger who writes about their disdain for something, perchance a hateful blog. However, if one is studying that issue, that insight gives one a deeper understanding of how people might feel about that issue at the lowest common denominator level. That has its place in understanding an issue. It is like looking inside a person’s mind.
Suffice to say that weeding through these opinions given the millions of blogs there are out there can be disconcerting. But within all the weeds there is always some gold. I know I have found such delightful and insightful ones in my searches. Telling it like it is from where they can see the issue best. On the ground. And from within their communities. Reading about subjects of interest from a blogger’s perspective adds a flavor like none other in my experience. It does not diminish the value of news reporting, not at all. It merely gives it some added facets. Be it in the form of stories of experiences, ideas for change or nuggets of advice. News and insight that is relatable, insightful even.
Lots of weeding mind, but spending the time and finding the gold within is most often worth it.
I feel lucky to belong to the community of bloggers who want to use the platform to bring forth fresh ideas or a fresh lens to look at things. To bring to fore obscure stories of the human condition and more that might be ignored by mass media. Something in your neighborhood, within your circle. And written about in an ethical and honest manner. Within all the junk online, there are many of us out there.
About Ranjini Iyer
Somewhere in the ether, my bio says ‘Ranjini Iyer is an entrepreneur and writer. She lives with her family in Chicago.’ I put that here initially. Followed by some lines about my interests and pursuits. It made me seem like someone who, up at dawn, gets a five or six mile run in, returns, packs superb gourmet lunches and sends her kids off to school with a smile. Then makes herself a fair trade cuppa and marches to her desk. Full of purpose. Works super efficiently all day at entrepreneur-ing and writing in turn.
I have had some of these days—can count them on the fingers of one hand. But mostly, this is a lofty dream. The real me is a day-dreamer and procrastinator. Most days, I scream at the kids to get ready while I pack them reasonably nourishing lunches, after which I drop them off and return to make myself a nice cup of tea. Drinking that I wool gather about how my day will look like, trying hard not to panic over that chapter I am working on that reads so badly. And marketing ideas for my business that I am so sure will fail.
This below is a more accurate bio.
A mother to two marvelous boys. I’ve got this mothering gig somewhat right, I’d like to think….alright fine, it’s a work in progress.
A wife going on 23 years to my best friend. Most days, think I got this bit right. Let’s just say I married a patient man who willingly supports my writing and other strange habits.
A published novelist. (My fifteen minutes, um…more like seconds really. Proof below…if you’re curious.)
A small business owner of a sleepy business making pretty things with vintage silk and reclaimed materials. Armed with my MBA and paralyzed with fear of making mistakes, I dither over marketing ideas for my ware. I am putting it down to the paralysis of mind at middle age.
A doggedly committed student of piano. Committed but not very talented.
A passionate supporter of environmental, women’s and children’s causes. True that--I am a board member of SCARCE, a Chicagoland based environmental organization. I also serve as a patron and supporter for an organization called Sakhi For Girls. They serve slum dwelling schoolgirls in Mumbai, providing nourishing meals, supplemental education programming as well as day care.
A trained singer of classical Indian music. I have sung for most of my life if everything goes south, it is always something I can teach. (Must pity my students though. My sons say I am the world’s worst teacher).
A maker and drinker of endless cups of tea. I make an excellent cup of chai. No joke.
I am a tangled mess of ideas and plans. Sometimes efficient, sometimes effective. I try. I have tons of enthusiasm and am always aching for something new to do. Cynicism has not infected me yet. There’s points for that. No?