Four good news stories to start the week

Need some hope to start the week? In case you missed them, here are four stories of things going right in the world. 

Story #1: Zenger Farm

In Portland, the Zenger farm is a green oasis in a “gritty area” with high unemployment rates, reports Civil Eats. The farm employs 11 people year-around, hosts a farmers’ market, and serves as a community hub and classroom. Operating on the Community Supported Agriculture model, the farm has found a way to offer shares to people on SNAP (food stamp) benefits, and is working to spread this model around the country. Its community offerings include Farm Camp for kids and will soon add an “Urban Grange” gathering place for people in the community.

“Friends of Zenger Farm also brings benefits to community members outside the CSA. At the farmers’ market they match the first $10 in SNAP purchases every week. And at a market where more than 40 percent of the vendors and many of the shoppers are immigrants, including Hmong, Turks, and Africans, the program makes a real dent in the cost of produce. Thanks to sponsorship from a local market called New Seasons Market and Bob’s Red Mill, Friends of Zenger Farm’s director of communications, Laleña Dolby, says the SNAP Match program is ‘putting more food on tables… and more money into the pockets of farmers.’”

Story #2: Yes, it works — Minnesota health insurance

Obamacare is working in Minnesota, with the number of uninsured Minnesotans falling dramatically since September. Now more than 95 percent of Minnesotans are insured, with the number of uninsured down by 40 percent. Stories from Budget Bites and the Star Tribune.

Story #3: Americans agree on something!

Okay, the latest Pew Research poll shows deepening partisan divides, political polarization, people not talking to anyone they disagree with, liberals not evening wanting to marry conservatives, yada, yada, yada.

BUT — Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, actually agree on their support for Social Security. Vox reports:

“Among the most highly ideological, most consistent conservative voters in the country most people don’t want to see cuts. Moderates don’t want cuts. Liberals don’t want cuts. Nobody wants cuts. The big gap is that there’s a substantial bloc of liberal support for increasing benefits, while conservatives like the status quo better.”

Story #4: Growing economy

Minnesota is the 13th fastest-growing state economy, reports the Star Tribune. Of course, our record-breaking growth was only 2.8 percent, which may be better than most of the country, but is hardly mind-blowing. We’re way behind first-ranked North Dakota. How to put a positive spin on that — North Dakota’s growth rate fell from 20.3 percent in 2012 to 9.7 percent in 2013, so … we could catch them in a couple of years.

Young people aren’t employed — good news?

This one is not really good news, but it’s a pretty interesting perspective that says the bad news might not be quite as bad as it looks.

An article in The Atlantic spins the young-people-can’t-find-work meme, pointing out that one reason for high unemployment among young people is that they’re in school.

“[The] BLS just recorded the lowest percentage of 16- to 19-year-olds working or looking for work since it started counting such things in 1948. But look what else changed since the 1940s: The share of the population with less than a high school education fell from 76 percent to 12 percent, while the share of Americans with a bachelor’s degree septupled to 32 percent. The BLS itself says that ‘the major factor producing this significant [change in labor participation] has been an increase in school attendance at all levels.'”

That’s about the only good news in youth unemployment figures, which remain unacceptably high. But so is unemployment across all age levels, because of the recession and its aftermath.

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