Friday, October 31, 2014

Healthy Halloween treat!

Speaking of Halloween, check out this recipe for Maple Chili Popcorn!  It sounds like a perfect North Country treat for Halloween!


New York maintains heat or eat program

Only 4 states—Michigan, Wisconsin, New Jersey and New Hampshire—are implementing the cuts to the food stamp program that were enacted as part of the 2014 Farm Bill. The new law says that people can't get enhanced SNAP benefits unless they receive more than $20 a year in heating assistance (up from $1 a year), which lawmakers hoped would be too expensive for states to pay. But the governors in 12 of the 16 affected states and the mayor of the District of Columbia have said they will find a way to pay for the increased heating aid. Most will use federal heating assistance dollars. At least one, California, will use its own money.
(Source: Star Tribune, 9/17/14, No SNAP Cuts)'s getting cold (you know you're from the North Country when you wear a snowsuit under your Halloween costume!)...thank goodness New York State stepped up to the plate and increase heating assistance so that people would not lose SNAP benefits!

New poll shows that majority of Americans think government should do more to solve hunger

Yesterday, The Hill ran an op-ed by Jim Weill from the Food Research and Action Center and Sara Lilygren, executive vice president of Corporate Affairs at Tyson Foods, titled “Hunger: An issue we can agree on,” which underscores how the majority of Americans polled are looking to government to be part of the solution.

They said, in part:

"Hunger continues to be far too widespread in our nation. Americans recognize that families are running out of food at the end of the month and that children are eating less nutritious and cheaper food so their parents can scrape together money to pay the rent. They realize that seniors are often choosing whether to pay for prescriptions or food. They know that many children go hungry in the summer when school is out. Indeed, 45 percent of Americans say that hunger in the U.S. is a 'serious problem.'

"These are sobering thoughts, but people believe there is a solution and they are looking for the government, in addition to individuals and local communities, to lead. Overwhelmingly, people believe that government should tackle this problem. More than 80 percent of Democrats and 70 percent of Independents believe the federal and local government has responsibility, and 50 percent of Republicans believe that the federal government has responsibility."

Read the full article here and see the full poll results here.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Schools can improve how they help hungry kids

The National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs have been feeding millions of children for decades. On a typical school day in 2013, more than 30 million—nearly three in five — students ate a school lunch. Over 70% of those children — more than 21 million — received a free or reduced-price meal. That means that more than two in five students benefited from free or reduced-price lunches on a typical day last year. But some children who could benefit from free school meals miss out because their school district doesn’t automatically enroll them as required. States can improve their processes for automatically enrolling children for free meals when their family receives SNAP benefits. School districts can make sure they are identifying children who homeless or in foster care so that they begin receiving free meals immediately during a period of family turmoil. And a new policy allows schools to begin feeding low-income children as soon as they receive an application, even if they have a processing backlog.

Source: Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, 9/8/14, School Meals

The "Meal Gap" in St. Lawrence County

This research, from Feeding America, shows data about food insecurity in the state of New York at the top of the graphic and about St. Lawrence County at the bottom of the graphic.  For more information, including an interactive map, go to the Feeding America website.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Childhood hunger today hurts tomorrow's workforce

Nearly 16 million children experienced food insecurity in 2013. Food insecure children and twice as likely to be suspended, 1.6 times more likely to miss school days, and 1.4 times more likely to repeat a grade than children who are not food insecure. Absenteeism and school discipline problems are associated with lower academic achievement and increased drop out rates. Children who drop out of school earn less over their lifetimes, contribute less in taxes, and are more likely to become unemployed than graduates.

Source: Council of State Governments, 9/25/14, Hunger Hurts the Workforce

Ogdensburg pantry runs out of food

A report from St. John's in Ogdensburg ...
Usually the church has 20-30 families come to the monthly food pantry. Yesterday they had over 50 families, and they ran out of food. With the holidays and cold weather approaching, demand is expected to be even higher!
We need to provide food to people in crisis, but we also need to ask ourselves how we shorten the lines at our food pantries!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Federal Child Nutrition programs due for reauthorization

Every five years, Congress must reauthorize child nutrition programs. During this process, Congress will debate new funding levels, ways to strengthen and improve the programs, and develop new policies to make sure our nation’s children have access to healthy, nutritious food. The current bill, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, is set to expire on September 30, 2015. Next year, the following programs are up for renewal:
The Summer Food Service Program: Provides free meals and snacks to low-income children during the summer months.
Child and Adult Care Food Program: Provides nutritious meals and snacks to children and adults in designated child and adult care centers, as well as snacks and suppers to children in afterschool programs.
WIC: Provides nutritious foods and nutrition education for low-income, at risk women, infants.
National School Lunch and Breakfast programs: Provides nutritionally balanced meals to qualified children each school day.
(Source: Feeding America, 9/14, Child Nutrition Programs)
This is an important conversation for all of us at GardenShare and in the communities of St. Lawrence County to engage in.  According to Hunger Solutions New York, in the 2011-12 school year, 8,188 students in St. Lawrence County were eligible for a free or reduced-price breakfast at school, but only 3,526 or 43% of those eligible were taking part.  In the 2012-13 school year, the situation got worse.  A few less students were eligible - 8,092, but even fewer of them, 3,382 or 42% were eating breakfast at school.
Hunger Solutions NY has set a goal of having 70% of the children who are eligible for a free or reduced-price breakfast at school actually get this meal.  If we accomplished this goal in St. Lawrence County, it would bring an additional $168,565.62 in federal reimbursements for these meals into our county!  More important, an additional 652 children would get a healthy breakfast every day of the school year!
In addition, the Summer Food Service Program provides meals for these children that get free breakfast and lunch during the shool year while school is out in the summer.  In the summer of 2013, there were only five sites in St. Lawrence County for children to get these meals - in Brasher Falls, Edwards, Gouverneur, Massena, and Potsdam.  I'm not sure how low-income families in Canton, Ogdensburg, or the many smaller communities throughout the County ensure that their children have healthy food during the summer.
These are among the issues I will be digging further into in the coming months and I invite participation in these conversations from interested parents, school officials, and citizens.
After all, if we can't make sure our communities' children get healthy meals, what kind of civilization are we?

Monday, October 27, 2014

A little more about Gloria

In my current (and soon to be former) job at Foodshare in Connecticut, we regularly posted profiles of some of the great employees, Board members, and volunteers.  A while back, some of the team challenged me to answer some of the same questions that we ask them.  I thought this might be fun for my new work "family" to learn some of these things, too, so here's one adapted from one that ran on the Foodshare site.  And, at some point, I'll work on profiles of others involved with GardenShare!

Name: Gloria McAdam

Role at Foodshare:  Chief Executive Officer, though I've had various titles, for the last 30 years.

Role at GardenShare:  I will start full-time as the Executive Director at GardenShare on January 5, 2015

What changed the most in your time at Foodshare? The sheer numbers of people – so many more people needing help and so many more employees, volunteers, and donors providing help. When I started at Foodshare in August of 1984, I was the only employee. My day started by picking up a van (we only had a van then, no trucks) and driving to a local halfway house where I would pick up one to three men who were willing to volunteer for the day. Today, we have 62 employees, about 4,000 volunteers, and five trucks, none of which I am allowed to drive! 
What has stayed the same?The passion and dedication of the volunteers, the donors, and the employees. And the vision of creating a community where no one goes hungry.

What motivated you to make this change after 30 years in the same place?  Sometimes, things come together in the right way and the time is just right. I have dreamed of coming home to the North Country for years, but had put the dream on hold in order to avoid disrupting my family.  Now my kids are all grown up and dispersed, as is true with so many families these days.  And the reality at Foodshare is that the organization has gotten so big, that the CEO job really was not what I wanted to do anymore.  So, I look forward to coming home and to being in a small organization where I can be enmeshed in the mission and the program work every day!

If you could trade places with anyone for a week, who would it be? Why?
If I could also time travel, it would be a younger version of myself, so I could go back and fix some of the mistakes I’ve made!

If you could be, or do, anything else – what would it be? It would be something with horses. I grew up with horses and have never lost my love for them, so maybe owning a stable or maybe running a nonprofit that uses horses in therapeutic ways.  Here's a photo of me on Apache at an Arizona dude ranch vacation in February of 2013!

What is your favorite song? I love music even though, unlike the rest of the McAdam family, I have no talent at all! Songs often move me, and a big favorite is Garth Brooks rendition of “We Shall Be Free.”  Church is an important part of my life and my favorite hymns include “How Great Thou Art” and “Here I Am.”    I look forward to being back home and getting to hear "Matune Creek," a local band made up entirely of McAdam's!

Last read  I often have more than one book going at once.  I'm currently in the middle of a memoir called "Medicine Dogs," about how a woman learned from her dogs how to better care for herself.  (Hoping my two big dogs can teach me some similar lessons!)  And, of course, I still read a newspaper in the morning!

If you were a superhero, what would your power be? That’s easy, I’d end hunger, all around the world!
Have more questions you'd like me to answer? Feel free to e-mail them to me and you just might see them here at some point!


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Growing up in the early years of the Amish arrival

When I was growing up, the Amish were just starting to move into the region.  Some people weren't too sure what to think of these new neighbors.

One day, my dad, who worked for the railroad at the Gouverneur depot, came home all upset.  An Amish family had been stranded in a boxcar with their animals on a siding in DeKalb Junction due to some error on the railroad's part.  They had run out of food and the train crews had been sharing their lunches with them.

While he had helped resolve the situation and get them on their way to their new home near Heuvelton, he wanted to do something more to help.

Since we had about half an acre in garden, he had us pack up a couple of bushel baskets of produce and we set off to find these new arrivals to the North Country.

When we did find them, the scene was chaotic - men and boys getting animals and farm equipment situated, women and girls getting household goods into the house.  We approached with our gifts and one of the women came forward, but she did not speak English.  A young girl of about ten translated for us.

I was about thirteen at the time and the whole thing made me a feel little shy and uncomfortable.  But I watched my dad who was not bothered at all by the chaos or the language barrier as he carried on a lovely conversation with the lady of the house.

Of the many lessons I learned from my dad, that one has stuck with me to this day.  It doesn't matter that someone looks different, dresses different, doesn't speak our language - if there is something they need and I can help, I should and I will.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Walking to the food pantry

I arrived in the North Country over the weekend, first for a cousin's 50th wedding anniversary celebration, and then to spend a few days getting oriented at GardenShare.

Over dinner last night, my sister-in-law told me an incredible story that speaks to the needs in the area.  She volunteers at one of the church-based food pantries in Gouverneur, my hometown and where my brother and his wife still live.  She told me that two weeks ago at the pantry, she met an elderly woman, who had walked all the way from Fine to Gouverneur.  I checked and it's 28 miles!

The woman was preparing to walk back when my sister-in-law  talked to her and found out that she had walked.  The church's pastor found a ride for the woman to get her home with her three bags of groceries.

Can you imagine being so desperate that you would walk 28 miles and then plan to carry three bags of groceries and walk 28 miles home?

Whether we find ways to bring the food to the people or the people to the food is clearly a legitimate question, but we can certainly not expect our seniors to walk more than 50 miles round trip just for a few bags of groceries!


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Thoughts on St. Lawrence

As I continue my "Season of Lasts" in the world of food banking, I'm at my last Feeding America meeting, but glad I got to come to this one since it's in New Orleans.

I've shared some thoughts with my peers about succession planning and how to help their organizations think through planning for an expected or unexpected leadership change.  I've also been picking the brains of the New York state food bank folks about what's happening in New York to start getting up to speed before I head up to Canton next week.  My biggest shock though was learning that one downstate food bank director doesn't even know where the St. Lawrence River is, much less St. Lawrence County!  (Don't they teach geography any more?  I consider it one of the greatest and most beautiful rivers of the world, right up there with the mighty Mississippi and the Nile, both of which I have also cruised on.  How could you live in New York and have never heard of it?  Okay, end of rant!).

But it's New Orleans, so free time has been spent having some fun and little did I know, as a St. Lawrence University grad, class of 1979, that in New Orleans, St. Lawrence is a bar!

Snapped the photo, but didn't go in, I swear!


Friday, October 3, 2014

My first donation for GardenShare

I have been touched beyond words by the outpouring of support and kind words of praise and encouragement from people in the Hartford area since my announcement two weeks ago that I will be leaving Foodshare at the end of the year to take the position of Executive Director at GardenShare. Opening our daily paper, the Hartford Courant one day last week was a real shock as I found this on the editorial page!

While I’m excited about this, as you can imagine, I do leave Foodshare, after 30 years, and the Hartford region, where I've lived my adult life and raised my family, with mixed feelings!  I will miss so many people in this community tremendously.

Trucks lined up for the Convoy of Caring
Those mixed feelings were brought home to me this week as I contemplated the series of "last" events or activities coming up for me.  On Tuesday, I was at my last "Food Industry Convoy of Caring," an annual event that recognizes all of the generous food companies that donate the food that Foodshare distributes.

One of those donors, the owner of a small chain of grocery stores, pressed an envelope into my hand.  I slipped in my pocket.  When I opened it later, his kind words in a hand-written note touched me, but his generous personal donation, in the form of two separate checks, one made out to Foodshare and one to GardenShare, nearly moved me to tears.

My first donation for GardenShare!
I look forward to getting to know and working with the committed and talented Board, staff, volunteers and donors at GardenShare and to having many more stories like this one to tell.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Coming home!

I'm Gloria McAdam, of the Gouverneur McAdam's, no relation to the cheese people (who spell their name differently, anyway!).

After graduation from Saint Lawrence University in 1979, my job search took me to the Hartford, Connecticut area, where I have been ever since.

But this poster, acquired at the old SLU bookstore back when I was a student, has traveled with me to every building I have worked in since I left Canton in 1979!

Though I've been away for 35 years now, the North Country has always still been home to me and I have often dreamed of returning.

Many factors kept me in Connecticut, including raising a family and a job that I loved for the last 30 years at Foodshare - the regional Feeding America food bank serving the Hartford area.  (You can read more about me and my time at Foodshare here.)

But children grow up - my youngest recently turned 21!  And sometimes, the time is right to move on, even from a job you love!

I'm so excited to be coming home to the North Country to become the Executive Director of GardenShare.  How often in life does a person get to take all you have learned over 30 years and bring it home to make a difference for people and a place that you still care deeply about?

I feel blessed and grateful to have this opportunity and although I won't be joining you full time in St. Lawrence County until January, I will be doing some transition work in the coming weeks and am looking forward to meeting so many of you who care about GardenShare's mission!

Feel free to be in touch...