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The path to passing a breakfast bill for 175,000 students

By Bob Dolgan
Campaign Manager

The path to the passage of SB2393 began in a conference room in Chicago in the Spring of 2015. It was soon after the election of a new Governor and several new members of the General Assembly, and few people in the state knew what to expect. The existing No Kid Hungry capacity-building strategy was making progress, but it was clear that updated legislation would be the swiftest way to provide breakfast to more children and lift Illinois’ breakfast ranking from 42nd. It also was clear that more research was needed to determine any costs a new breakfast bill would pass on to school districts. The Illinois No Kid Hungry team began drafting a school breakfast resolution, with the support of the Illinois Commission to End Hunger’s No Kid Hungry Working Group and the national office of Share Our Strength. The nonbinding breakfast resolution passed the Illinois Senate and House later in the spring, with the support of champion-advocates during Illinois Lobby Day.

The breakfast resolution promised that the No Kid Hungry Working Group would “provide the General Assembly with a report showing the impact of providing alternative breakfast models” by November 4, 2015. The Illinois No Kid Hungry team and the Social IMPACT Research Center at Heartland Alliance then analyzed data from the Illinois State Board of Education and the School Nutrition Association and concluded that 97% of school districts would have positive revenue by serving breakfast. Updated school breakfast legislation had long been part of the Illinois No Kid Hungry strategy, but by November we had the data to back up our assumptions and assuage legislators’ concerns.

The bill moved quickly after it was introduced in January. Momentum kept growing this spring, culminating with 300-plus pantry volunteers and other supporters rallying at the Capitol on May 11. The bill ultimately passed both chambers unanimously because of a broad coalition of partners in every part of Illinois. We’re grateful for everyone who helped us along the way. SB2393 gives us hope that Illinois can pass similar bipartisan bills in the future that benefit children while utilizing a research-based approach.

View our press release about the passage of SB2393 (June 3, 2016)

School breakfast: the societal benefit

New report shows Illinois ranks 42nd

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By Bob Dolgan
Campaign Manager

The Illinois State Board of Education Annual Report states that 2,054,556 students were enrolled in Illinois public schools in 2014-2015. In our view, every one of those students deserves an opportunity for a better future. The playing field, though, is uneven for many children, whether due to their own family’s challenges or due to schools’ administrative and funding barriers. As a child advocacy campaign, we can’t control every variable. But we can work to access every resource available to low-income children. It’s our responsibility to give our children and our neighbors’ children a fair chance at success.

A nutritious meal at the start of the school day means that a child is more likely to be properly nourished and able to focus, absorb the lessons being presented and retain the knowledge needed to excel. It’s not an overstatement to say that serving school breakfast can be the first step to a brighter future long-term. The impacts of hunger on brain development in formative years are well documented. And some research connects school breakfast to higher scores on achievement tests. Children who miss meals regularly, especially breakfast, are more likely to be held back a grade, receive special education services and mental health counseling. If the core functional benefit of breakfast is to sate hunger pangs among already at-risk children, the higher purpose is dignity and respect: a quality meal is something that everyone deserves, three times every day. What message do we send by ignoring a program that was enacted by Senators and Representatives and endorsed by Presidents, for the very purpose of aiding low-income children?

The arguments against school breakfast are many, and often soporific. We’ve seen firsthand how skeptical attitudes toward school breakfast change with positive impacts on attendance, tardiness and school wellness. As one teacher told us, “Our day actually gets started quicker than it used to, and calmer.” The Rise and Shine Illinois campaign exists to make setting up a breakfast program easy: we can develop solutions for any school and have the resources to provide schools grant funding for breakfast infrastructure. There are few reasons not to serve breakfast at school.

Today we release breakfast data showing that Illinois ranks 42nd in the nation in serving school breakfast. While average daily participation has increased slightly, the balkanized structure of our 859 school districts makes direct, local advocacy for breakfast district-by-district expensive and time-consuming. Therefore, this spring we will introduce legislation in Springfield that requires schools to serve fully federally funded breakfasts. We will follow up until every eligible child receives a meal at the start of the school day. Providing breakfast is a small step among many needed to enhance our education system, but by valuing every child and nurturing every child individually we have a chance to make progress. And that’s a benefit for all of society.

View the 2015 Rise and Shine Illinois Breakfast Report
View 2014-2015 breakfast data for the top 100 school districts in Illinois
Press release: School Breakfast Program reaching more children in Illinois, yet opportunities remain 2.16.16

Additional after-school meals information sessions announced

CACFP At-Risk After-School Meals Information Sessions – Fall 2015

No Kid Hungry Illinois and the Illinois State Board of Education hosted a series of regional information sessions on the Child and Adult Care Food Program’s At-Risk After-School Meals Program this past summer.  Due to high demand, four additional sessions have been added for the fall.  The sessions are geared toward potential new sponsors and sites of the After-School Meals Program.

If your after-school program . . .

  • Is located in the attendance area of a school with 50% or more free and reduced price eligible children
  • Serves snacks or meals out of your own pocket
  • Participates in the National School Lunch Program After-School Snacks Program
  • Does not serve food at all

. . . Then you should come learn how you can serve nutritious meals for FREE to all children through the USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program At-Risk After-School Meals Program, which provides reimbursements for snacks and meals served in eligible low income after-school programs.

Topics to be covered include eligibility, application and administration requirements, partnership resources, best practices and grant opportunities.

Session Dates and Locations
  • October 13: Greater Chicago Food Depository, Chicago
  • October 21: Illinois Central College, Peoria
  • October 29: The Pavilion of the City of Marion, Marion
  • November 5: Champaign Public Library, Champaign

*Please note that this information session will be part of an all-day Summer and After-School Meals summit. All sessions are free to attend and lunch and refreshments will be provided.  Attendees may register for any or all sessions.

Full Day Agenda
  • 9:30am – 1:00pm: Summer Meals Program Topics – for Summer Food Service Program sponsors only
  • 1:00pm – 2:15pm: Lunch and Partner Resources Presentations – for both Summer and After-School
  • 2:15pm – 3:00pm: Grant Writing Workshop – All the tips and tricks we know!
  • 3:00pm – 4:00pm:  After-School Meals Info Session for potential new sponsors and sites

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

All public and charter schools, non-profit community or faith based organizations, recreational or health centers, units of state, local or municipal government, libraries, non-residential child care centers and other eligible institutions are welcome.

If you have any questions, please contact Malaney Varaljay at mvaraljay@gcfd.org or 773.843.6706.

How to end summer hunger in Illinois

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By Bob Dolgan
Campaign Manager

In the past four weeks I’ve been to Washington, the St. Louis area, Springfield, and of course, Chicago, helping spread the word about summer meals and learning about solutions that will ensure more children receive food. It’s easy for those of us who mostly sit at desks in climate-controlled offices to conceive of ideas for ending summer hunger, but the reality is that implementation is a generational challenge that requires dramatic policy change and a broad array of stakeholders. There is no universal solution for summer hunger: every region, every state and every community faces unique barriers.

The challenges during summer are clear: Only 15 percent of low-income children in Illinois receive summer meals.  A total of more than 640,000 children in the state are food insecure, meaning they face uncertain or limited access to food. In addition to enacting a new Child Nutrition Reauthorization, I believe there are three opportunities that would ensure children are fed: extensive education of the public, a re-shaping of the summer meals experience and an injection of private funding.

  • Child Nutrition Reauthorization: First and foremost, we need a strong Child Nutrition Reauthorization to replace the law that expires Sept. 30. CNR will set funding for all child nutrition programs, including school breakfast and lunch, and summer meals, for the next five years. Proposals in the Senate’s recent draft of a bill would enable the delivery of mobile meals, aiding children in urban and rural areas of Illinois. In urban areas, crossing busy streets in high-crime areas is a safety hazard; in rural areas, existing sites are far apart (some counties do not have any sites at all). Summer participation would increase almost immediately if the new bill is passed.
  • Educating the public is important, both for the families we serve in summer and the potential supporters of the program. Many families simply don’t know where meals are available. And if they do know, it can be daunting to go to an unfamiliar site in a time of great need. The majority of sites are open to any family, including public schools that offer a welcoming environment, and in Chicago, “Lunch Stop” food carts outside of CPS sites. (Note: Our No Kid Hungry Illinois program is a proud funder of the Lunch Stop program.) Anyone in the general populace can help connect families to summer meals. If you don’t know someone in need, someone you know does. Our social media platforms and website, www.summermealsillinois.org, make it easy to share information.
  • There are more than 1,700 summer meal sites in Illinois, and every one is unique. They range from Camp Ondessonk, a sleep-away camp in southern Illinois’ Shawnee National Forest, to Altgeld 13136, a building in Chicago’s Altgeld Gardens’ public housing complex. Due to resource constraints, many sites cannot provide much more than a meal when children arrive at their doors. Recreational and educational activities, though, bring sites alive with the sounds of children at play while addressing the academic “summer slide” that takes place children are not in school. At outdoor sites surrounded by asphalt, even one picnic table transforms the experience. Making summer sites about more than food adds dignity and respect for the people we serve.
  • More dollars are needed at every level of the Summer Foodservice Program, starting with funding for the meals. Most summer providers do not have the equipment or resources to offer made-from-scratch meals to children. The quality of the meals makes a significant difference, particularly for teens who already are fickle eaters. Additional dollars to acquire tasty, quality ingredients would help. Many programs, entirely operated by volunteers, have been hit hard by state budget reductions and have struggled to keep their doors open. And if new provisions are available in the next CNR, we will need transportation to reach distant rural areas and the infrastructure to serve urban and suburban areas where there are gaps.

Summer is only one component of the solution to child hunger. We face challenges during the breakfast and after-school time periods, too. But as summer winds down, we have opportunities to think about what more we can do in time for next year. And inch closer to a day when no child goes hungry.

Learn more: follow @RiseAndShineIL, @SummerMealsIL, @EndHungerIL

 

Community Eligibility Provision (CEP)

An innovative approach to offering universal free school breakfast and lunch

What is it?

The Community Eligibility Provision allows schools and local educational agencies (LEAs) in high-poverty areas to offer free breakfast and lunch to all students without having to go through the standard household application process to determine meal program eligibility.  Any school district can use this option if at least one of its schools has 40 percent or more “Identified Students”, meaning, students who are certified for free meals using other forms of direct certification data such as qualifying for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Progarm (SNAP), Medicaid, Head Start, etc.  By removing the burden of  having to collect household applications to determine eligibility for the few students that do not qualify for free or reduced-price meals, CEP significantly lessens the administrative work of having to collect and verify school meal applications and allows schools to focus on feeding children.

Introduced by the The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, this option is now available to all schools, nationwide – the deadline to opt in for the 2015-2016 school year is August 31, 2015.

What are the benefits?
  • Reduced administrative burden – removes paperwork for both parents and school staff, lowering administrative costs, eliminating the need to track unpaid meal charges and allowing staff to focus on improving education and meal service operations.
  • Increases participation and factilitates implementation of alternative breakfast models – maximizes access to free nutritious meals to students, reducing stigma and making it easier for schools to implement Breakfast in the Classroom and Grab N Go.
  • Improves efficiency and financial viability of school nutrition programs – CEP schools traditionally show significant increases in breakfast and lunch participation, resulting in higher revenue through reimbursements, which districts can use to improve meal program quality.
How it works

The percentage of Identified Students multiplied by 1.6 = the percentage of meals reimbursed at the “free” rate.  The rest of the meals are reimbursed at the paid rate. Therefore, the higher the poverty level (Identified Student Percentage), the higher the reimbursement rate.
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Schools can determine their eligibility status by visiting the Center on Budget and Policy Priority’s CEP eligibility database and can also use tools like the No Kid Hungry School Calculator to help determine the financial viability of becoming CEP.

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Illinois was one of the first states to pilot CEP in the 2011-2012 school year and since then, has grown from less than 250 to over 1,000 schools participating.  According to the Food and Research Action Center, breakfast and lunch participation in the first three pilot states, Illinois, Michigan and Kentucky, increased by 25% (29,000 meals) and 13% (23,000 meals) respectively, in CEP schools within the first two years. Such increases in participation underscore the impact of community eligibility and its ability to improve low-income children’s access to healthy meals at school, particularly through the School Breakfast Program, which has been underutilized. Administrators, child nutrition staff, and parents in participating schools, who experience the benefits of community eligibility first hand, have enthusiastically embraced the option¹.

However, compared to the rest of the nation only 55% of Illinois’ eligible school districts and 29% of eligible schools participate¹. This means, we can do better.

What can you do?
  • Apply to become CEP for the 2015 – 2016 school year by August 31, 2015 with the Illinois State Board of Education.
  • Utilize the tools, resources and information fact sheets on the Share Our Strength Center for Best Practices Community Eligibility Provision webpage.
  • Take action and connect with a Rise & Shine breakfast coordinator, who can help:
    • Determine the best breakfast plan for your school or district
    • Provide technical assistance for implementing CEP and alternative breakfast models
    • Assist with applying for Rise & Shine Illinois breakfast grants

For Chicago school, breakfast is a source of pride

“Our waste log never gets filled”

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A mural outside the Beidler School cafeteria, where 403 children receive breakfast each day.

Too often we hear what can’t be done to serve breakfast at school. But that’s not the case at Beidler School on Chicago’s West Side. At Beidler, breakfast is part of the school day. In fact, breakfast, lunch and supper are part of the day. The school’s doors open to students at 7:30 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.

“We educate socially, emotionally and academically,” said Principal Charles Anderson. “If they’re hungry, it’s hard to do any of those things.”

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Charles Anderson

The meaning of school, and community, takes on another dimension at Beidler, a public elementary in the East Garfield Park neighborhood. School at Beidler is about much more than educating children from pre-K to eighth grade. It’s about supporting a community and providing a “safe haven,” in the words of Mr. Anderson. The school keeps its doors open longer because of the flexibility needed by parents. A significant percentage of students are homeless, and many parents are working multiple jobs to make ends meet.

East Garfield Park faces a food insecurity rate of 38.5 percent, nearly three times the statewide rate. Mondays and Fridays are the busiest days in the Beidler School kitchen. Mondays because children arrive at school having eaten sparingly over the weekend. Fridays because children ask for seconds to tide them through until Monday.

“Our waste log never gets filled,” said Mr. Anderson.

For too many low-income families, breakfast becomes one more variable in their lives. The Rise and Shine Illinois campaign is seeking to address food insecurity by expanding school breakfast statewide. Experts agree that breakfast correlates with better attendance, less tardiness and improved academics. Common sense tells us that a hungry child can’t concentrate at school and is at risk of falling behind.

On a recent morning with Mr. Anderson, children approach for a hug, a smile or a few friendly words, the atmosphere becomes familial and perhaps warmer than many schools. “This is my son,” Mr. Anderson said kidding one child who stays in a homeless shelter. Mr. Anderson takes time to greet every parent, teacher and student, seemingly knowing everyone in East Garfield Park by name. The school is a source of pride for the community.

When told that some schools in Illinois, many in fact, don’t participate in school breakfast, Mr. Anderson expressed surprise. It never occurred to him not to serve breakfast.

“They’re missing out on a great way to start the day,” he said “We always say a good breakfast will do everything.”

The next Rise and Shine Illinois breakfast grant deadline is Monday, June 15. Contact us at riseandshineillinois@gcfd.org or
773-247-3663 to learn how to bring breakfast to your school.

Grab N Go Breakfast increases participation by over 120% in Beardstown

Operating as a well-oiled machine – students grab their breakfast on the way into school each morning and then head off to class.

Operating as a well-oiled machine – students grab their breakfast on the way into school each morning and then head off to class.

Nourishing students from the inside out

For many students at Beardstown Junior/High School, the breakfast they receive through the National School Breakfast Program may be one of the only two nutritious meals they receive in a day. According to Principal Scott Riddle, for most of these kids, “If we don’t serve breakfast, they don’t get breakfast.” With over 73% of the school’s student population eligible for free or reduced-priced meals, the need is high and therefore “the goal,” says Riddle, “is to get food into the hands of the kids.”

With the help of a Rise and Shine Illinois grant, Beardstown was able to implement a Grab N Go service model for the 2014-2015 school year in order to make breakfast more accessible to all students and increase participation in the breakfast program. The children simply pick up a packaged hot or cold meal in the cafeteria or hallway as they enter school and eat together before class starts.

Principal Scott Riddle stands in front of an “inspirational” art installation created by the students at Beardstown Junior/High.

Principal Scott Riddle stands in front of an “inspirational” art installation created by the students at Beardstown Junior/High.

To start the Grab N Go program, the Junior/High School needed two Point of Service (POS) terminals, which they were able to purchase with funds from the Rise and Shine Illinois grant. An electronic pad collects student fingerprints as they pick up their meal and it automatically records and tracks the number of meals served in a reporting database. By reducing the amount of time students have to wait in line and the amount of paperwork for administrative staff, the new system makes serving breakfast a more efficient process and ultimately helps to feed more kids meals.

Since implementing the program, Riddle has seen two major improvements – a spike in attendance because kids are coming to school on time in order to get breakfast, and increased productivity in the classroom. “Teachers say you can see kids who are distracted in the classroom because they’re hungry and sleepy. With breakfast, they perform better, they’re more attentive.”

On average, about 520 of the 840 students in the Junior and High School are eating Grab N Go breakfast, a 122% increase over last year. In a county that has a food insecurity rate of over 23%, these meals serve a significant need. Nourishing kids from the inside out, the program not only ensures that the students are receiving a healthy meal but it provides them the opportunity to share and participate in the communal act of eating with one another. As Riddle points out, “Breakfast is about making sure your neighbor has something to eat. It’s teaching a community value.”

After-School Meals Grant Opportunity – Deadline may 15

Rise & Shine Illinois announces After-School Meals grant opportunity through No Kid Hungry Illinois

CACFP At-Risk After-School Meals Program Expansion Grant

Application Deadline: MAY 15, 2015

In partnership with Rise & Shine Illinois, this grant opportunity for up to $2,500 each is funded through Share Our Strength and the Illinois No Kid Hungry Campaign to help At-Risk After-School Meal (aka “Supper”) sponsors expand access to and participation in after-school and extended day meal programs that receive reimbursement through the USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). The priority is to help sponsors maximize their ability to provide students in eligible after-school programs (http://www.isbe.state.il.us/nutrition/pdf/at_risk_fs.pdf) with a full supper meal.

Click here to read more

Eligibility

The supper program must be:

  • Located in an eligible site or area
  • Served in conjunction with an eligible after-school enrichment program

Within the scope of the purpose above, the following programs are top priorities for support:

  • Starting new CACFP supper programs in conjunction with eligible after-school enrichment programs.
  • Sponsors currently providing after-school snacks supported by either CACFP or the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) who wish to expand their program to provide a full meal in place of or in addition to a snack.
  • Sponsors currently providing a CACFP supported supper, looking to expand or enhance their program to help them reach more children.

All applying organizations must be either 501(c)(3) nonprofits currently in good standing, schools/school systems approved to participate in CACFP or NSLP, local government agencies able to accept grants, or churches/tax-exempt religious organizations not required to apply for official 501(c)(3) status.

You must have already started the CACFP application process with your state agency at the time you submit your grant application. We will accept grant applications from organizations that have started the process and/or are awaiting approval from your state agency; however grants will only be awarded to organizations that are approved as program sponsors.

Eligible Uses of Funds

These grants are intended to help with costs associated with starting or growing a supper program, including, but not limited to:

  • Staffing
  • Equipment
  • Program costs (per USDA guidelines, programs that wish to provide a full supper must provide some kind of enrichment programming)
  • Outreach to increase enrollment
  • Support to offset registration or other enrollment fees for low-income families
  • Transportation

Average Grant Award: $2,500

Reporting Requirements

If funded, you will be required to complete a report on the following:

  • Financial report on use of funds
  • Monthly participation numbers
  • Interim and final narrative report on the successes and challenges of your program over the course of the program

Organizations that do not submit a report will be ineligible to receive future grants from Share Our Strength.

Grant applications will be evaluated based on:

  • Adherence to Eligibility and Requirements guidelines
  • Program sustainability beyond the grant funding period
  • Growth potential for CACFP afterschool meals and snack program participation.

All applicants must submit a complete application; incomplete applications will not be considered.

Application Due Date

Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis through November 15, 2015 with three deadlines: May 15th, August 15th and November 15th.

CLICK HERE TO APPLY.  You will need to create a user profile. Use the access key: ILCACFP2015 when prompted (all caps).

Recent data on food insecurity, poverty, school breakfast

Research underscores high need, importance of child nutrition programs

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A summer meals site in Blue Island.

Four important data sets released in recent weeks characterize the depth of food insecurity and poverty in Illinois and the extent to which programs like school breakfast are making progress. According to Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap 2015, released today, 643,040 children in Illinois were food insecure in 2013–a troubling 1 in 5 children under the age of 18. Illinois’ child food insecurity rate has ranged between 20.8 percent and 23.3 percent in the five years that state rates have been available. Two counties in Illinois, Alexander and Hardin, have child food insecurity rates of more than 30 percent and are among the highest rates in the nation.  Food insecurity is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s measure of lack of access at times to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members.

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Another recent report highlights child poverty, a key factor in food insecurity. Illinois Kids Count 2015, a project of Voices for Illinois Children released in February, shows that child poverty rates in Illinois are higher than pre-recession levels and are much higher than in 2000. In 2013, 21 percent of Illinois children lived in households with incomes below poverty level, compared with 17 percent in 2007 and 15 percent in 2000. The dramatic increase confirms what economists tell us and what we observe in the community: a high, sustained need remains in the community. Further, the poverty level for a family of three is only $18,750. It’s likely that many people are struggling to make ends meet who are above the poverty level, particularly in communities where $18,750 is only enough to cover housing costs.

Two other findings from Kids Count:

  • The number of children in poverty in Illinois increased from 457,000 in 1999 to 634,000 in 2012.
  • The City of Chicago accounted for 46 percent of the state’s child poverty population in 1999 but only 33 percent in 2012. The share in the metropolitan suburbs rose from 22 percent in 1999 to 33 percent in 2012.

Federal nutrition programs, working in harmony with nonprofit organizations, provide the majority of food for families who are struggling to make ends meet. Schools can be the conduit for reaching more low-income children, in particular at the start of the school day. (Indeed, this is what the Rise and Shine Illinois campaign is all about!). With that in mind, Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) released its annual School Breakfast Scorecard last month. While the nation has made progress, Illinois dropped to 40th nationally based on its ratio of breakfasts to lunches for free and reduced-price eligible students (note Illinois’ ratio essentially remained static while other states rose).

 

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Finally, the Rise and Shine Illinois School Breakfast Report, compiled by Heartland Alliance’s Social IMPACT Research Center, provides a sunnier outlook on breakfast. Analyzing three years of data from the Illinois State Board of Education, the Report shows that average daily breakfast participation per school has increased from 106.1 students in 2011-2012 to 115.2 students in 2013-2014. Yet Illinois leaves $90.4 million in federal funding on the table because schools do not serve breakfast. (The Rise and Shine Illinois report differs from the Scorecard in several ways, but most importantly in that it benchmarks against “possible meals served” rather than lunch participation.)

The research underscores the importance of keeping up momentum for our programs, especially as the next Child Nutrition Reauthorization is debated in Congress this year. Much work remains, and that’s what Rise and Shine Illinois is here for: providing funding and technical assistance, literally from Rockford to Cairo. We hope you’ll join us: Rise and Shine Illinois has breakfast grant deadlines April 15 and June 15, and you can take our breakfast pledge by clicking here.

What’s next? The Annual Illinois Hunger Summit takes place May 5 at the Hilton Springfield. Join us!