MCF Provides an Update on County Issues with “Fostering Equity in Marin: Insights from the Field”

Mar 16, 2015

The goal of MCF’s annual Buck Trust grantmaking is to foster equity of opportunity for every resident of Marin. On March 5, MCF held its latest In The Know event at Piatti Ristorante, to provide an opportunity for donors to get an update from MCF Program Directors on the critical issues facing the county and the strategies that the foundation is using to address them.

Barbara Clifton Zarate headshot

Barbara Clifton Zarate, Program Director for Poverty, revealed that while our county’s low-income residents are working hard, they’re not earning enough to make ends meet. A single mother working a minimum wage job earns $1,400/month; child care costs $1,100 per month, per child, and a one-bedroom apartment rents for $1,600 or more. A family of four would need an income of $101,000 per year to be self-sufficient. Low-income residents are forced to live in crowded housing conditions, with several families renting two-bedroom apartments together.

Don Jen headshot

Don Jen, Program Director for Education, discussed the four distinct gaps within the “Achievement Gap:” 1) Belief Gap: the conviction that all children can achieve, 2) Opportunity Gap: the understanding that some children need more to get the same, 3) Teaching Gap: teachers’ ability to meet the needs of their students, and 4) Learning Gap: students’ motivation to, and engagement in, learning what they need to learn. He also reinforced that quality early education (PreK3) is known to be the most effective strategy in closing the achievement gap.

Patti D'Angelo Juachon headshot

Patti D’Angelo Juachon, Program Director for the Environment and Legal Services, celebrated the environmentalists that came before us and the significant legacy they left to Marin. Yet there is work still before us. 2014 was the hottest year in California history. Low-income residents have inequitable access to the county’s natural resources and are more likely to live in homes with environments that make them sick. For example, asthma hospitalization rates in Marin City are 3X higher than its neighboring city, pointing to mold in home environments.

Shirin Vakharia headshot

Shirin Vakharia, Program Director for Community Health and Aging, shared that Marin has been named as one of the healthiest counties in the U.S. However, not all communities in Marin have equitable health outcomes. For example, there is a 16-year life expectancy gap for residents in some neighborhoods of Marin comparted to others. And in one neighborhood school district nearly 47% of elementary school students are overweight or obese compared to 11% in a nearby district, a statistic that reflects that healthy behaviors (including diet and exercise) are strongly influenced by socioeconomic status.

These are complex issues to tackle, because they exist in an intricate ecosystem of people and organizations. MCF’s refreshed strategic plan looks for unique and critical roles that the foundation can play in the county, for ways to use leverage, and for opportunities to integrate our efforts.

For more information, resources, and representative organizations working in these areas, please download this PDF.

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