Sunday, November 30, 2014

Why do you give?

I give because I'm grateful for all that I have been given.  Why do you give?


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Turkey what if's

I've just wrapped up my final Thanksgiving turkey drive as a food bank director.  Foodshare distributed nearly 20,000 turkeys and all the trimmings to families in need here in greater Hartfod this past week.  I'm sure similar efforts were going on at the churches and food pantries in St. Lawrence County and that many families will be sitting down to a traditional turkey dinner tomorrow.

Cause of celebration, of course, and yet this blog entry at Children's Health Watch, "Of Turkeys and Taxes," along with my friend, Joel Berg's Facebook status update: "This week, above all, let’s be clear that the answer to U.S. hunger isn’t more food drives or turkey give-aways but more jobs, higher wages, and a stronger government safety net," brought home the mixed feelings I always have at this time of year.

Yes, it's great that the public has come through with enough turkeys to make sure that every family that requested a little help has that traditional Thanksgiving meal. But what about next week, next month, and next year?

What about the summer months when the needs are even greater than in the winter?

When will the day come that local food pantries announce a smaller need or maybe even close their doors because their services are not needed any more?

It's not that I'm ungrateful for the outpouring of support!  It means a great deal to me personally to be able to lead the effort help low-income families have a special holiday meal. After all, we all have things to be grateful for, no matter our current situations.

And the people who receive those meals are grateful. Here's just one response we received at Foodshare this week:

“I want to sincerely express my gratitude for Foodshare. I was completely blown away by the Thanksgiving bags I received yesterday. I would not be able to put on a dinner for my 2 kids otherwise. I'm tearing up right now. Everyone was SO KIND and everything was SO well run... my heart is so very full and grateful. Thank you endlessly for all you do. It is my sincere wish to someday return the favor by volunteering once I'm able. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.”

But wouldn't it be great, if, one of these days, we could actually slow down, or even stop running these food drives because we had figured out, as a civilized society, how to make sure that everyone has access to enough healthy and affordable food?


Tuesday, November 25, 2014


The difference between what the rich and poor eat in America begins long before a baby can walk, or even crawl. Researchers at the University of Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Studies found considerable differences in the solid foods babies from different socioeconomic classes were being fed. Specifically, they found diets high in sugar and fat to be associated with less educated mothers and poorer households, while diets that more closely followed infant feeding guidelines were linked to higher education and bigger bank accounts.

Foods higher in sugar and fat are relatively inexpensive, which could be a reason why low-income mothers are more likely to feed infants those foods, the researchers noted. These diets not only contribute to larger weight increases in infants, they also can negatively affect a child’s eating habits, food preferences, and health in the long term.

Source: Washington Post, 11/4/14, Infant Diets

Monday, November 24, 2014


This story makes me so sad this Thanksgiving week...


Since January 2013, 22 cities around the country, from Los Angeles to Atlanta to Philadelphia, have enacted legislation restricting individuals and groups from sharing food with the homeless in public places, according to a new report by the National Coalition for the Homeless. The report found that there has been a 48% increase in cities attempting to pass such laws since 2010. Since 2007, 71 cities, in 27 states or commonwealths, including Puerto Rico, have either attempted or successfully enacted such legislation. At the same time, three states, including Connecticut in 2013, have passed a “Homeless Bill of Rights.” which outlaws discrimination against homeless people and affirms their right to use public spaces, including eating and exchanging food in public.

Source: Stateline, 11/17/14, Feeding the Homeless; Poverty & Policy, 11/17/14, Hunger & Homelessness

Friday, November 21, 2014


Research shows that when children get help through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and SNAP they are healthier in childhood and as adults, do better in school, have better employment, and earn more.  Children also benefit when their parents get help—for example, when parents get insurance their children go to the doctor more often. It just seems obvious that kids would be helped by connecting them and their parents to the benefits—largely federally funded – that they are already eligible for but not receiving. A new report from the Urban Institute finds that more than 25 million children and 9 million parents nationwide were jointly eligible for the two programs.  But evidence from five states suggests that only about two-thirds of those jointly eligible were getting both.  


Source:  Center for Law and Social Policy, 11/3/14, SNAP & CHIP

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Why a star football player traded NFL career for a tractor

Did you see this on CBS Evening News the other day?  What an inspiration!


At one point number 60, Jason Brown, was one of the best centers in the NFL.

At one point he had a five-year, $37 million contract with the St. Louis Rams.

And at one point he decided it was all meaningless - and just walked away from football.

"My agent told me, 'You're making the biggest mistake of your life,'" said Brown. "And I looked right back at him and I said, 'No I'm not. No I'm not.'"

So what could possibly trump the NFL?

Jason Brown quit football to be a plain, old farmer -- even though he'd never farmed a day a in his life.[...]

See, his plan for this farm, which he calls "First Fruits Farm," is to donate the first fruits of every harvest to food pantries. Today it's all five acres--100,000 pounds--of sweet potatoes.

"It's unusual for a grower to grow a crop just to give away," said Rebecca Page, who organizes food collection for the needy. "And that's what Jason has done. And he's planning to do more next year."


A new study examines SNAP “churn,” which occurs when a SNAP family exits the program and then reenters within four months or less. Churn is a policy concern for several reasons: the forgone benefits among households who were eligible while off the program, the client time and expense involved in reentering the program, and the added federal and State administrative costs associated with case closings and re-openings. Across six study states, the estimated rate of churn in 2011 ranged from 17 to 28%. Most participants exit at the time of a scheduled recertification or a required interim report and are off SNAP for a month or less. The research shows that changes in address, earnings or employment status, or household size or composition and issues of language, literacy, age, and disability all contribute to churn.

Source: Urban Institute, 11/7/14, SNAP Churn
I suspect that, in places like St. Lawrence County, transportation, or more specifically, the lack of transportation, contributes to people losing their SNAP benefits because they can't make it to appointments.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Kids who are picky eaters?

Do you have children who are picky eaters? Don't worry. Since it is important for children to have a well-balanced diet, here are some tips that will help.


1) Children may refuse to try a new food the first time you serve it. It may take up to 10 times seeing a new food before your child will try it.

2) Keep a positive outlook when serving new foods. Your kids will eventually find trying new foods fun.

3) Be a good role model for your children. If you eat it, they are more likely to eat it too.

4) Include your children when you shop or cook. Let your kids pick their favorite fruits and vegetables at the store. And, let them help make some family meals. Children who are involved with food choices and cooking are more likely to try a variety of foods.


And some recipes to try:
           Veggie Pizza Pita Pockets
          Fruit Pizza

From Paycheck to Food Pantry

More than half (54%) of all households seeking charitable food assistance from the Feeding America network include at least one member who had employment in the past year, according to a recent study released by Feeding America® andOxfam America® ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday season. All told, approximately 25 million people live in these households. The study details the challenges that many working Americans face in providing enough food for their households. Feeding America is the nation's largest domestic hunger-relief organization and Oxfam America is an international relief and development organization.

Recent economic growth has resulted in improved circumstances for some individuals and their families, but its benefits have excluded many others, including the more than 17 million1 American households facing food insecurity. Many of these households have working members whose wages are too low to support themselves and their families.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


Approximately 60% of the more than 50 million public elementary and secondary education students obtain a substantial portion of their daily calories from school lunches. Researchers from Virginia Tech recently compared school lunches with packed lunches and found that school lunches have greater nutritional quality. Specifically, they found that both packed and school lunches almost entirely met nutrition standards, except school lunches were below energy and iron recommendations, while packed lunches exceeded fat and saturated fat recommendations. The findings suggest that nutrition education programs targeting children, parents, and perhaps even school policy should be encouraged to promote healthier packed lunches.


Source:  Rudd Center, 11/3/14, School Lunch

Monday, November 17, 2014

Healthier Snacks and Beverages Tip Sheets for Schools

Five tip sheets sharing strategies for selling and serving healthier à la carte and snack foods and beverages in schools while still maintaining revenues have recently been released. The tip sheets highlight key findings from the Controlling Junk Food and the Bottom Line study that profiles eight school districts from across the country. The Illinois Public Health Institute partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Network of Public Health Institutes, and Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project to produce the tip sheets. As schools and districts work to implement USDA’s new Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards, these tip sheets share strategies from districts that have successfully implemented healthier competitive foods standards, sold more fruits and vegetables, taught nutrition to students, and made cafeterias more enticing for students.

Sunday, November 16, 2014


Several studies, including a new one from USDA, show that SNAP participants eat less healthy diets than nonparticipants. A prolonged low-quality diet is a concern because, over time, poor dietary patterns and excess consumption of empty calories can lead to diet-related health problems, weight gain, and obesity.
The USDA study reveals that adult SNAP participants are aware that their diets need improvement, and they know what they should be eating.  Greater constraints on food budgets and less easy access to food stores may partially explain SNAP participants’ food choices. USDA found that 70% of SNAP respondents rated how well a product keeps as very important, and SNAP participants place more importance on price and convenience compared to higher income shoppers.
The higher value that SNAP shoppers placed on how well food keeps is understandable. Compared to higher income shoppers, SNAP shoppers are more likely to shop once a month or less. This may be related to the monthly distribution of SNAP benefits or to having a more difficult time getting to the grocery store—14% of SNAP respondents reported that it took them more than 30 minutes to get to a grocery store. When consumers shop less frequently, choosing foods that keep well would be important.


Source: USDA, 11/3/14, SNAP Shoppers

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Students grow to love compost, kale, healthy eating

An environmental science class in Michigan is moving from the classroom to the garden. "We started composting last year in the cafeteria, and of course that creates nice, rich soil," Teacher Juli Tripicchio said. "The next step is creating this garden. They're learning about the benefits of local foods — not having pesticides, not having transportation all the way from California and the CO2 emissions.” (Detroit Free Press)

Friday, November 14, 2014

Workshop for farm and food entrepreneurs

From North Country Public Radio...

More than 75 people came to SUNY Canton in upstate New York Thursday for money—specifically to find out how to get loans, grants, or investments for businesses that have to do with food and agriculture. Lenders and business leaders see the farm sector as a prime way to boost the North Country economy.

Read the full story on NCPR website.

Handouts from the event can be downloaded here.

Program takes school gardening to new level: entrepreneurship

This program is taking traditional school gardens to a new level, where the green isn’t only in the dirt or student diets but in their wallets. High school students learned how to care for seeds and plants, replant them, harvest them, cook them and, in a new twist, sell them. (SF Gate)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Sustaining Family Farms Conference

Practical Tools and Solutions for Sustaining Family Farms Conference will be held January 14-17, 2015 in Mobile, Alabama
The 24th annual Southern SAWG conference is for serious organic and sustainable producers, farm to school participants, urban farmers or those interested in creating more vibrant community food systems. The event offers informative pre-conference courses and field trips, practical conference sessions, networking, trade show, Taste of Alabama event and more. Each year, participants go home with information to use immediately to improve their operations.
Schedule available at

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

New Training Program: Food Safety from Farm and Garden to Preschool

The University of Massachusetts Department of Nutrition and the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension have developed a free, online, interactive food safety program for Farm to Preschool programs. We would appreciate it if you could forward this announcement to those who may be interested in participating in this exciting new program.

Food Safety from Farm and Garden to Preschool Training Program is available online This free, self-paced program was created to help early childcare educators, foodservice staff, volunteers and parents understand the importance of reducing the risk of food safety related to fresh fruits and vegetables for young children. The program
includes five units:

. Farm to Preschool Benefits
. Fresh Produce and Foodborne Illness Risks
. Food Safety Basics for the Classroom and the Kitchen
. Food Safety and Gardening Activities
. Food Safety on Field Trips to Farms and Farmers' Market.

Printable resources such as Best Practices Planning Tools, resources, and Certificates of Completion are available and may be able to be used towards Professional Development requirements. This project was supported through USDA NIFA project award 2011-5110-30996. For more information on the program and to get started, visit

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Too many veterans need help with food

From today's PittsburghPost-Gazette  (but I'm fairly certain it's true everywhere! - Gloria)

As we mark another Veterans Day with people around the country lining streets to cheer their heroes as they parade by, we need to be aware of another, less honorable, parade of veterans, which is growing at an alarming rate.

That parade leads to the local food pantry or soup kitchen. According to a recent Feeding America report titled “Hunger in America,” here in southwestern Pennsylvania a growing number of households that receive assistance from the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank include a veteran or a person now serving in the military.

Additional statistics show that there are about 230,000 veterans in the Pittsburgh region, with approximately one-tenth of those falling below the poverty level. And while nobody in our country should be at risk of not having enough nutritious food, it is particularly troubling that so many veterans — men and women who gave so much to protect the freedom and prosperity we as Americans enjoy — struggle daily with this challenge.

Healthy Food in Your Community: A Toolkit for Policy Change

Do you ever wonder why some neighborhoods lack stores selling affordable fresh food or why unhealthy food can be so much easier to buy than fruits and vegetables? Are you concerned about access to healthy food in your community but aren’t sure of the best ways to have an impact?

In celebration of Food Day, the Union of Concerned Scientists is launching a new resource today to help you/ your readers/ your network/your members get started.

Check out the Healthy Food in Your Community: A Toolkit for Policy Change and register for a web-based discussion with successful food policy leaders to learn how we can create change in our communities. For questions about the toolkit or how to make it available online or at your events, email Danielle Fox at

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Food system issues...from Wyoming to Connecticut to St. Lawrence County

As you all know by now, I am moving back to the North Country, after living in Connecticut for the last thirty-five years.  Naturally, I'm still following food, hunger, and agriculture issues in Connecticut, especially while I'm still in transition.

I found this blog post, "Fueling Up in Cheyenne, Wyoming," on the CT NOFA website particularly interesting.

The author lays out some of what is wrong with our food system and agriculture policies in this country.  And the effects it all has on our health.  He lays out a good argument for why we should return to eating more buckwheat and less wheat, and even includes a recipe for buckwheat pancakes!

I look forward to being here at GardenShare full-time starting in January and working to address some of these issues at the local level.  And especially to being able to talk about these issues in a way that I cannot as the CEO of a food bank that relies on the food industry for donations of both food and funds!


Helping seniors access SNAP

In an average month in 2012 more than 4 million Americans age 60 or older participated in SNAP, with an average monthly benefit of $119 for those living alone. With at least 1 in 11 seniors struggling against hunger, increasing access to SNAP can make a huge difference for millions of households with limited resources.  With this imperative in mind, the Food Research Action Council and AARP Foundation have published a digital toolkit that provides best practices for connecting older adults to SNAP. The toolkit,“Combating Food Insecurity: Tools for Helping Older Americans Access SNAP,” offers practical tips and examples to help organizations of all sizes address food insecurity in all types of communities.  

Source: Food Research Action Council, 10/16/14, SNAP for Seniors

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Donate as you shop online!

Are you an Amazon customer?  Did you know you can donate to GardenShare every time you shop online?  Go to Amazon Smile to learn more.

As I was ordering a new e-book this week, I made the change from my donation going to Foodshare to having it go to GardenShare!


USDA stops subsidizing EBT machines

As part of the 2014 Farm Bill, the federal government will no longer subsidize electronic benefit transaction (EBT) machines, a move that will force many small, SNAP-accepting stores to stop accepting benefits, or raise their prices. In large supermarkets, EBT cards are swiped at checkout terminals along with credit and debit cards. But in around 118,000 bodegas, corner stores, and mom-and-pop markets nationwide, SNAP EBT cards have been used in specific machines provided to stores free through a federal-state partnership, according to the USDA. These small stores could now see bills of up to $1,000 a year to use EBT equipment, supplies, and related services, according to Xerox Corp, which administers EBT cards in 19 states.   

Source:, 10/14/14, EBT Machines

At GardenShare we are looking into how this may affect local stores and farmers markets that accept SNAP benefits.  Anyone with any information should feel free to be in touch.


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Halloween scare

At Foodshare in Connecticut, my place of work for the last 30 years, we have a long tradition of wearing costumes to work on Halloween.  I have taken part in that tradition most years, with the highlight of my costumes definitely being the "Turkey Queen" - evening gown, sash, and tiara.  (Anyone who has been in the Hartford area in November in the last thirty years gets it!)

This year, I showed up at work in my usual cool weather attire, corduroys and a sweater.  But I was indeed in a costume.

At Foodshare, because of the large number of volunteers (4,000 last year!), we all wear nametags that look like this one.

Yesterday, I had on a nametag that looked like this instead.

One Foodshare staffer said it was the scariest costume of the day!

After thirty years, my upcoming transition from Foodshare is scary.  For me, for the people who work at Foodshare, and for many others in this community.  But as the days go by, I am more and more confident in this decision and believe that both organizations - Foodshare and GardenShare - will come out of this transition stronger and making a bigger difference for more people.