Thursday, April 30, 2015

GardenShare offers subsidy on CSA shares from local farms

GardenShare still has room for more families to receive a subsidy to purchase a share in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm in the area.  The concept of a CSA is that a household can purchase, in advance, a share of the farmer's crop for the season and then pick up a box of produce each week during the growing season.  This helps the farmer plan what and how much to grow and gives the farmer the upfront cash to get the season started.  And, generally, it's a win for the consumer who will get more than their money's worth over the course of the season.

However, for a family on a tight budget, paying for the whole season's worth of produce in the spring can pose a challenge.  For families who qualify, GardenShare's "Bonus Bucks" will offer a subsidy of $50 on CSA shares costing $200 or less and $100 for shares that cost more than that.

To qualify, the total gross yearly income of all household members cannot exceed the following levels:
                Household of          1              Income of                $30,000
                                                2                                              $37,000
                                                3                                              $44,000
                                                4                                              $51,000
                                                5 or more                                 $58,000

An income-eligible household would then select one of the following farms. Each farm is a little different with different prices, various pick-up locations and times, and a different number of weeks included in the share.  So it is important for the consumer to pick the farm that works best for their household.  After selecting a farm, the household submits an application to the farm with payment for their share of the cost.  The farmer will give the application to GardenShare for reimbursement of the subsidy portion.

CSA Farms taking part in the program include:
                Birdsfoot Farm, Canton, 315-386-4852
                Bittersweet Farm, Heuvelton, 315-344-0443
                Fullers Farm, Canton 315-379-1412
                Kent Family Growers, Lisbon, 315-212-7502
                littleGrasse Foodworks, Canton, 315-386-3513
                Steps 2 Grow, Ogdensburg, 315-394-0597
                Whitten Family Farm, Winthrop, 315-328-5559

This program is generously supported by Price Chopper's Golub Foundation, Stewarts, Potsdam Youth Philantrhopy Council, Corning, and individual GardenShare supporters.

For more information on this or other GardenShare programs, visit

New "Meal Gap" research

Feeding America released new meal gap research earlier this month.  This work identifies both the food insecurity rate by county for the entire country and the meal gap, or unmet need for food.

Bad news for St. Lawrence County - the food insecurity rate has risen from 13.6% of the population to 14.8% or 16,610 people who do not always know where their next meal is coming from.  A third of those who are food insecure have incomes too high to qualify for federal assistance, like SNAP (formerly called food stamps) or free meals at school.

The only counties in New York state with similar food insecurity rates are our neighbors in the North Country - Jefferson and Franklin Counties - and the Counties that make up New York City.

Go here for an interactive map that lets you click on any state, county, or Congressional district in the country for local data.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Farm manager part-time help wanted

St. Lawrence University is looking for someone with organic farming practices experience, preferably a local farmer, who could supervise the student workers and the Sustainability Semester farm on a very part time and temporary basis this summer and possibly into the fall.  The current manager is moving on and SLU needs someone temporarily while they do a search to fill the position with a permanent hire.  More details and how to apply follows: 

Duration: Temporary Position, 10-14 weeks beginning the week of July 1, 2015
Salary: $40/hour
Work Schedule: 6-10 hours per week spread between a minimum of 2 days per week

St. Lawrence University Sustainability Semester is seeking a temporary farm/site manager for its Sustainability Semester site. For more and specific information on the Sustainability Semester, please go to

·         Experience managing a vegetable farm employing organic practices
·         Experience raising chickens
·         Experience with and ability to use farm equipment and machinery
·         Experience managing/teaching/supervising undergraduate students
·         Must live locally (within one hour drive to the site)
·         Ability to lift at least 50 pounds and engage in the physical activity of garden maintenance and harvest

·         Oversee the maintenance and harvest of the Sustainability Semester gardens/orchard and site including chickens through supervision of student interns and workers providing assistance (including some physical labor) as needed. This includes maintaining the summer work plan and schedule (created by the previous Homesteader-In-Residence) for the summer and creating a work plan and schedule for fall harvest as needed.
·         Must be physically present on site a minimum of 6 hours a week spread between a minimum of 2 days per week
·         Supervision of student interns June-August includes weekly one on one meetings with each student 
·         Good communication including a minimum of every other week meetings with the Director of the Sustainability Semester and weekly check-ins with the student manager
·         Willingness to be on call daily in case of a crop/site/animal emergency

Interested applicants must apply online at uploading required materials which are defined in the “special instructions to applicant” section.  Review of applications will begin immediately and continue until the position is filled.  Questions about the position may be directed to Dr. Cathy Shrady, Director of the Outdoor Program, at

All offers of employment are contingent upon the finalist successfully passing a background (including criminal records) check.

St. Lawrence University is an Equal Opportunity Employer.  For additional information about St. Lawrence, please visit

New dietary guidelines - take action

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) has just submitted their updated recommendations to the U.S. Secretaries of Health and Human Services and Agriculture.

This little known activity happens every five years, but this year, something different came out in their report!

Two things, actually...

  • The report addresses questions of inequitable access to healthy food, dietary disparities between racial and ethnic groups, and the challenges to food security among lower income populations, and,
  • Sustainability - The report says, “Meeting current and future food needs will depend on two concurrent approaches: altering individual and population dietary choices and patterns and developing agricultural and production practices that reduce environmental impacts and conserve resources….”

The Secretary of Agriculture is getting pressure from the food industry and some members of Congress to reject the sustainability portion of the report.

What can you do?  Before May 8, write to the Secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services and urge them to accept the recommendations in total!

More on the subject in Mark Winne's blog.

Sign on to a letter to the Secretaries here.

Read the report and offer comments here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Success Strategies for Local Food Procurement

New report highlights how local foods facilitate community health, unique educational opportunities, and stronger local economies

Communities across the country are creating innovative and effective ways to procure locally produced foods – schools, hospitals, food banks, and other institutions are partnering with farmers, distributors, and community organizations to bring more local food to community members’ plates.  Exploring Economic and Health Impacts of Local Food Procurement, a report by the Illinois Public Health Institute and Crossroads Resource Center, highlights practical, effective strategies for communities to add locally sourced food to their institutional food systems; recommends ways to conceptualize and measure economic and health impacts; suggests effective funding strategies; and includes Critical Analysis of Economic Impact Methodologies, which discusses the literature on the economic impact of local foods. 

Case studies share insights from food system leaders in school districts, food banks, healthcare facilities, health departments, food distributors, cooperatives, entrepreneurs, and food service companies.

  • Leaders in Southern Arizona are making farmers’ markets accessible to low-income residents; increasing local food procurement by a food bank; creating a flourishing school garden; and providing job training and business development opportunities to low-income residents.
  • Through the efforts and partnerships between growers, food distributors, a local hospital system, the health department, a cooperative grocery store, and school districts, communities in Southwest Wisconsin have created innovative distribution initiatives to increase local food procurement by several institutions.
  • In Jefferson County, Kentucky, the Farm-to-Table initiative brokered more than $1.5 million in local food sales in just four years.
  • In Burlington, Vermont, the school district has made pioneering efforts to build a comprehensive local food curriculum that links with farm to school efforts, and a local hospital system is serving local foods in its cafeterias and hosts community gardens and educational programming.
  • In San Diego County, California, the farm to school program is collaborating with partners to create a sustainable approach to bringing farm-fresh foods to local children. Through this collaboration, San Diego Unified School District has grown its local food purchasing from 2.5% of its food budget in 2010/2011 to 15% of its budget in 2013/2014.

**This study was funded by the National Network of Public Health Institutes (NNPHI) through its Cooperative Agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For more key findings from the study for local communities, click here.

Learn more by reading the Executive Summary and Full Report.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Feed the world or feed your community?

"According to Jean-Martin Fortier, it isn’t a farmer’s job to feed the world. And he finds it absurd that many U.S.-based food and agriculture companies tell farmers they should do so. “Feeding the world? People in Africa don’t need the U.S. to feed them.” What we need, the Canadian farmer argues, is small farms feeding their communities, and that task is difficult enough."

Full article: "Earn a Good Living without a Tractor"

Saturday, April 25, 2015


Shoppers can enjoy purchasing local goods at many area farmers markets, starting the second week of May.

The Potsdam Farmers' Market, behind the municipal lot near Ives Park, will kick off its outdoor season on Saturday, May 9th from 9AM to 2PM. There will be live music on opening day, including performances by two SUNY Potsdam a cappella groups at noon. The market runs each Saturday until October 31st.

The market offer in-season produce, meats, eggs, herbs, flowers and plants, maple syrup, honey, fresh baked goods, wine, natural bath and body products, jewelry, artwork and much more.

Debit and SNAP/EBT cards are accepted. Simply swipe your card at the manager's booth for Farmers' Market Tokens and spend them at vendor booths like cash.

“We look forward to getting back outdoors after the long winter” says market manager Laura Popielski. “It will be great to see familiar faces and welcome new shoppers as well!”

Other area markets will begin in either May or June.  Visit for a complete listing. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Business matchmaking can pull local food sector together

Weekend phone calls, late nights, working out the details of a new farm-to-retail distribution venture. The entrepreneurs on either end of the line are Laura Edwards-Orr and John Brusie.
She is executive director of Red Tomato, a local food venture that’s been sourcing and marketing fresh produce from farms across the Northeast for 19 years. He is vice president of Ginsberg’s Foods, a century-old family business, and the last independent food distributor in upstate New York’s capital region.
The guy in the middle is Todd Erling, executive director of the Hudson Valley Agribusiness Development Corporation (HVADC). He’s trying to connect soaring demand for local foods with his upstate New York region’s bounty.
“We’re within a five hour radius of 60 million people, and New York City is just one-third of that,” he says. “New York state alone boasts an estimated $7 billion unmet demand for locally produced food and beverage.”
Read the full article here.

Thursday, April 23, 2015


“Around the country, food pantry directors are girding for an influx of hungry adults” as a three-month limit on SNAP benefits for unemployed, childless adults returns in many areas, the New York Times reports. During the recession, most states took advantage of a provision that allows them to waive this limit when unemployment is persistently high. Now, as the economy improves, states must decide whether they should continue these waivers. Eight states qualified for waivers in 2015 but decided to use them only in parts of the state or not at all. USDA estimates that 23 more states will cease to qualify for statewide waivers in 2016. States are not required to help the affected people find jobs or provide a place in a job-training program that would allow them to keep benefits.  Very few do so, leaving it to the participants to find enough work or training to keep their benefits. According to USDA, the households of able-bodied adults receiving SNAP in 2013 had average gross incomes of $308 per month — or less than 30% of the federal poverty guideline.

Source: New York Times, 4/11/15, Ending SNAP Waivers

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earth Day and food waste

So much is being done to prevent food from being wasted.  Feeding America and local food banks, like the Food Bank of Central New York, recover literally billions of pounds of food that might otherwise go to waste every year.

Yet there is more to be done.  Read more from Feeding America here.


Proponents of turning key safety net programs like SNAP into block grants, as the House budget plan would do, often cite Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) as a model. But a close look at how states have used TANF funds since it was created in 1996 provides a cautionary tale. The cash assistance safety net for the nation’s poorest families with children has weakened significantly since it became a block grant. Cash assistance caseloads shrunk when TANF was young and the economy was strong, this freed up federal and state funds that had gone to poor families in the form of benefits.  States used the flexibility of the block grant to redirect those funds. Some of the freed-up funds initially went to child care and welfare-to-work programs.  But over time, states redirected much of their TANF funds to other purposes, sometimes to replace state spending on other priorities.  When need increased during the recession, many states did not direct the funds back to core welfare services and instead cut in basic assistance, child care, and work programs.

The proposal to convert SNAP to a block grant would result in $125 billion in cuts to struggling families between 2021 and 2025. This would end benefits, or cut them by an average of almost $55 person for per month, for up to 12 million people. These cuts, though, would cost the economy hundreds of thousands of jobs. Assuming the cuts are evenly distributed across the five years between 2021 and 2025, an updated analysis of a 2012 study estimates that the proposed cuts to nutrition aid would cost the economy 286,000 jobs in the first year alone.

Sources: Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, 4/9/15, Block Grant Dangers; Center for American Progress, 4/13/15, SNAP Cuts

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


If you could buy healthy, nutritious produce that looked a little different for 30 to 60% less than regular produce, would you be interested? Or if you were a grocer and you could raise sales and reduce food waste by selling different—some say ugly—produce, would you be interested? In other parts of the world, both consumers and grocers are saying yes to “ugly” produce, but US grocers have not appreciated the business case for selling ugly produce. In 2014, French supermarket Intermarche developed a highly popular and creative marketing campaign for these “inglorious” fruits and vegetables that raised store traffic 24%. Early on this year, Australian grocery giant Woolworths inaugurated a similar ugly produce campaign called the Odd Bunch. The campaign was a wild success, with 3.6 million kilos of produce sold at a discount, resulting in a 40% sales increase.

Source:  Foodtank, 4/14/15, Ugly Produce

Monday, April 20, 2015


While food price inflation averaged 2.6% a year for the last 20 years, the fourth quarter of 2014 saw grocery store food prices that were 3.5% higher than the year before, and higher than the average food price inflation. Beef and veal prices saw the largest increase, rising 18.2% from the fourth quarter of 2013, the result of historically low U.S. herd sizes and steady consumer demand. Egg (7.9%), dairy (5.3%), and fresh fruit (4.6%) prices also rose faster than other commodities.

Source: USDA, 3/27/15, Food Prices

Friday, April 17, 2015

Food systems summit coming up

UVM Food Systems Summit, June 16-17, Burlington, VT

All people deserve access to adequate, nutritious food. The complicated and provocative question for the fourth annual UVM Food Systems Summit on June 16-17 is how to provide this basic human right. The UVM Food Systems Summit is an annual event drawing scholars, practitioners and food systems leaders to engage in dialogue on the pressing food systems issues facing our world. To learn more and register, visit the UVM Food Systems Summit website.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

More on SNAP in St. Lawrence County

As I noted yesterday, 17,129 St. Lawrence County residents live in households that were receiving SNAP benefits in January 2015.  The $2,097,606 those residents received that month seems like a lot.  But I did the math:  $2,097,606 divided by 17,129 people is $122.46 per person for the month.  January had 31 days, so that works out to $3.95 per person per day.

A few years ago, I took part in a SNAP Challenge program, where I tried to feed my family on $4 per day.  Even though I have a car and the ability to shop the sales at different stores, a fully equipped kitchen, and I know how to cook from scratch, it was nearly impossible to do.  Lots of cheap food and lots of the same thing over and over.  If you don't believe me, you should try it yourelf!

So one improvement that could be made to SNAP, and this would have to happen at the federal level is to make the benefit levels more realistic.

Another concern that arose for me from looking at the data was that while 19.6% of the County's population lives at or below the federal poverty level, only 15.6% of the population is using SNAP benefits.  Since SNAP benefits are often available to people with incomes up to 200% of poverty, that's a lot of people who likely need this assistance but are not receiving it.

I'm looking for information about who is already working on these issues and ideas about how we reach people in need who are not currently receiving SNAP.  Feel free to contact me with ideas or information!


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

SNAP in St. Lawrence County

According the New York State's Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (ODTA), in January of 2015, 8,683 households in St. Lawrence County were receiving benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called food stamps).  17,129 people lived in these households and benefited from this program.

In that single month, January 2015, more than $2 million in SNAP benefits was provided to County residents!  For the most part, these funds were spent at grocery stores in the County and maybe a few stores nearby in neighboring counties.  So, these funds not only help provide food for people who need assistance, they are very important to our local grocery stores and the local economy!

Moody's estimates that every dollar of SNAP benefits that goes into a community returns $1.78 in economic activity to that community!

Imagine if that $2 million a month was taken away from St. Lawrence County...stores would close, jobs would be lost, and of course, people would go hungry.  Protecting and improving the SNAP program is a key priority for fighting hunger, but look at how it also benefits a community!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Take action to support SNAP

Congressman Jim McGovern of Massachusetts tells this story:
"I was once handed a stack of paper plates.
"On each plate, someone had written what SNAP meant to them or how hunger had impacted their life. The stories on the plates were powerful and I read many of them on the House floor to give a voice to those who are struggling.
"I launched #FillUpYourPlate for you to tell me what #SNAP means to you or how hunger has impacted your life. Responses will be posted here on a wall of virtual paper plates.
"Why now?
"Every indication is that Republicans will try to cut this critical program that serves over 46 million people a year. As a member of the House Agriculture Committee, and a strong supporter of the SNAP program, I will fight any proposed changes that make it more difficult for the hungry in America to get the food they need. We cannot balance the budget on the backs of poor people.

"Click here to take a moment to tell me what the SNAP program means to you. Your responses will be posted below on virtual paper plates."

Monday, April 13, 2015

Graduate Certificate Program in Sustainable Food Systems

The Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University is accepting applications to its Online Graduate Certificate Program in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems.

This program, in it’s second year, is ideal for professionals engaged in a variety of food-related businesses and organizations, as well as others interested in implementing sustainable practices for their organizations, partners, and communities.

Because the program is 100% online, students can live and work anywhere in the world, study with the Friedman School’s renowned faculty, while they earn graduate credit from Tufts University,

Course offerings are below (courses may be completed individually or as part of the graduate certificate program):

·      Sustainability on the Farm (fall semester)
·      Supply Chains and Food Markets (spring semester)
·      Sustainability and the Consumer (summer semester, begins May 18)

Please visit their website (, download the SAFS Program 1-page Information Sheet (, or
register for a Virtual Open House to learn more (

Friday, April 10, 2015

WIC helps and and also has unintended consequence

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which authorized funds for WIC, is set to expire on September 30, 2015. The reauthorization process gives policymakers an opportunity to reexamine the program’s operation and effectiveness and consider improvements. A comprehensive 2012 review of WIC research conducted for USDA concluded that WIC participation directly affects participants’ health and nutrition through improved diets (including increased iron density, fewer added sugars, and a greater variety of foods) and greater use of health care services. It also found that requirements that WIC-authorized stores stock at least two varieties of fruits, two varieties of vegetables, one whole-grain cereal, and lower fat milk improved availability of healthy foods in these stores increased access to healthy foods for the entire community, not just for WIC participants. But the study also found that WIC program regulations might have had the unintended effect of raising prices and limiting availability of non-WIC brands of infant formula in some retail food stores.

Source: USDA, 4/6/15, WIC Benefits

Thursday, April 9, 2015


The Summer Meals Act of 2015 (S. 613 / H.R. 1728), introduced by Senators Gillibrand and Murkowski and Representatives Young and Larsen, would strengthen, protect, and expand access to the Summer Nutrition Programs. The bill proposes to: (1) improve the area eligibility test to allow community‐based organization to participate if 40 percent of the children in the area eligible for free or reduced‐price meals, (2) allow local government agencies and private nonprofit organizations to feed children year‐round through the Summer Food Service Program, (3) provide funding for transportation grants to fund innovative approaches and mobile meal trucks, and (4) allow all sites to serve a third meal.

Source: Food Research and Action Center, 3/31/15, Summer Meals

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The importance of SNAP in NY


School breakfast is getting healthier while reaching more children, according to a. new analysis by the Food Research and Action Center. An average of 11.2 million low-income children ate a healthy morning meal each day at school during the 2013-2014 school year, an increase of 320,000 children from the previous school year. Participation growth was driven by several factors. The economy played a role as families grappling with the slow recovery from the recession found themselves eligible for free and reduced-price meals. Improved policy changes, like direct certification and Community Eligibility, meant that schools were better able to identify and certify income-eligible children for school meals.

Source: Food Research and Action Center, 3/31/15, School Breakfast

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

New "food hardship" research released today

FRAC released today “How Hungry is America?” its latest look at Gallup survey data on food hardship. This report reviews 2014 data for the nation, every state, and 100 of the country’s largest MSAs. Here are five things you should know.

  1. One in six American households (17.2 percent) said in 2014 that there had been times over the past 12 months that they didn’t have enough money to buy food that they or their families needed.
  2. What that means – the economy is improving, but tens of millions of people are still struggling to afford the basics.
  3. There’s not one state that is free from hunger. Even the “best” state on the report’s Food Hardship Index, North Dakota, has one in eleven households struggling to afford enough food. Nine states have more than one in five households struggling.
  4. Such high food hardship rates are unacceptable, yet some in Congress continue to propose huge cuts to proven and effective programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), school meals programs, and other supports.
  5. What you can do: Tell your Members of Congress that you want them to solve hunger by strengthening our nation’s safety net. Oppose efforts to cut nutrition programs. Add your name today to our Support SNAP petition.

Share the news: What is #foodhardship? That’s the struggle to afford enough food. See how it affects your state in @fractweets report.

About the Report
How Hungry is America? contains data throughout 2014 for every state and (for 2013 and 2014 combined) 100 of the country’s largest metropolitan areas (MSA). The data were gathered as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index project, which has been interviewing hundreds of households daily since January 2008. FRAC has analyzed responses to the question: “Have there been times in the past twelve months when you did not have enough money to buy food that you or your family needed?” A “yes” answer to this question is considered to signal that the household experienced food hardship. The full report is available at


Today’s children and their families are experiencing the triple threat of obesity, food insecurity and malnutrition, says the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Nearly 1 in 3 school-age children and adolescents is overweight or obese, and only half of all children ages 2 to 17 eat diets that meet federal diet quality standards. The highest rates of obesity are found in people with the lowest incomes, and more than 14 million American children live in poverty. 

The challenge for low-income families today may not be obtaining enough food, but rather having dependable access to high-quality food. 

Hungry children who live in food insecure households—which accounts for 1 in 5 U.S. children—have difficulty learning and are more likely to experience educational, health and behavioral problems as a result. Children with obesity are at increased risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, asthma, joint problems, and social and psychological problems, among other ailments.

Source: USDA, 3/11/15, Child Nutrition

Monday, April 6, 2015


Putting photos on SNAP EBT cards seems like a simple anti-fraud idea. But in Massachusetts, which started putting photos on Electronic Benefit Transfer cards in 2013, it hasn’t worked. The main reason is that, under federal law, you sometimes have a right to use a SNAP card that was issued to someone else.

Food stamps aren’t awarded to an individual; they go to a household, and anyone in the household is entitled by federal law to use the E.B.T. card the food stamps come on. If you don’t have to be the person in the photo to use the card, how is the photo supposed to stop misuse? Additionally, federal law prohibits retailers from subjecting SNAP shoppers to special scrutiny. So, if a retailer doesn’t ordinarily ask for a photo I.D. to verify credit card transactions, it’s not supposed to scrutinize the photos on E.B.T. cards either. This gives stores an additional reason to ignore the photos — and in supermarkets where the shopper swipes the card through a reader directly, the clerk may never even come in possession of the card to examine it in the first place.

Source: New York Times, 3/27/15, SNAP Photo ID; Urban Institute, 3/15, SNAP ID

Friday, April 3, 2015


Thanks to that new "time hop" feature on Facebook, I saw what I was thinking and writing about six years ago today...

Seems to me that it still applies...

Our lunchtime keynote address at the Feeding America national conference was delivered by Paul C. Light, Professor of Public Service at New York University.  He is the author of several books about the nonprofit and government sectors of our society.

Professor Light noted that nonprofit organizations make up a significant part of our economy in this country, with over 11 million people employed by nonprofits.  Unfortunately, he estimates that in the current economy, as many as 100,000 nonprofits may go under because in a recession, nonprofit organizations are hurt first and recover last.  He sees four possible futures for nonprofit organizations:

  • "Miraculous rescue" -- These are the organizations with magical thinking awaiting the saving donor or contract.  It may happen and they may survive, but there is a good chance they will not.
  • Withering -- These are the organizations that batten down the hatches, but slowly whither away because they are not doing anything new or different, just trying to hold on to the way things were.
  • Winnowing -- While he believes winnowing will happen, he noted that the problem is that it won't be a deliberate winnowing.  The organizations that fail won't necessarily be the worst and the ones that survive won't necessarily be the best.
  • Renewal -- In these times, organizations that make an aggressive recommitment to their missions may well renew and blossom.
These times present an opportunity to nonprofits, but we are often so down on ourselves that we don't talk about it!

In talking about nonprofit leaders as social entrepreneurs, Professor Light asked us why nonprofits so often have poor equipment -- old computers, poor work spaces, and so on.  He said that he thinks that demeans the best workforce in America and we need to honor the talent, passion, and commitment of the people who work in nonprofits by giving them the tools to do their jobs.

I agree 100%!  I have never been willing to accept the common axiom of "good enough for nonprofit work" -- not in the people we hire nor in the tools we give them to get their jobs done.  We have some of the best and brightest, most passionate and hard-working people anywhere!  I need to do my best as their leader to get them the tools to do their jobs in the best and most efficient ways possible.

He also talked about what it really means to be "nonprofit-like."  Sadly, surveys show that the American public has been losing its faith in nonprofits.  "Nonprofit-like" might have a negative connotation for many.

Professor light described "nonprofit-like" as having five traits:

  • Laser-like focus on the mission of the organization
  • Value added -- the work nonprofits do adds value to each dollar donated
  • Innovative and entrepreneurial
  • Capacity to succeed -- investing in the infrastructure to allow the organization to do its work efficiently and effectively
  • Pride -- non profit organizations should be proud of all they accomplish
He closed his powerful remarks by talking about our power and strength in the world of nonprofits being our faith.  Not religious faith, but faith in the work we do, a belief that we are part of something bigger.  We do have faith in miracles, but we don't expect those miracles to come from the government or a donor, we know that the only place to find miracles is within ourselves.

I could not have said it better, and what a way to close out this conference!


If you have interest and time (35 minutes), here's a video of the presentation:

Debate about school lunch nutrition standards - are the kids eating the healthier food?

Heard this story on school lunch standards on NCPR this morning.  The debate continues...



Legislators considering SNAP cuts this year — the House budget calls for $125 billion in cuts over the next decade, for example — should bear in mind that any future cuts would come on top of other recent cuts.  About 1 million unemployed, childless adults are slated to lose SNAP during 2016 as a 3-month limit on benefits returns in many areas.  And nearly every SNAP recipient experienced a benefit cut averaging 7% in November 2013 when the benefit boost in the 2009 Recovery Act expired. That expiration slashed benefits by about $20 per household per month, on average — equivalent to 10 meals a month, reducing total SNAP benefits by about $5 billion in fiscal year 2014.

Source: Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, 3/31/15, New Cuts on Top of Old

Thursday, April 2, 2015

St. Lawrence County ranked low in community health

"St. Lawrence County is ranked among the worst in the state when it comes to community health, and Jefferson County is not far behind," said a front page story in yesterday's Watertown Daily Times.

Green shaded areas are food deserts.
I found it interesting that, while obesity is discussed as an issue in the article, little is said about access to affordable, healthy food.  In fact, St. Lawrence County has eight census tracts that meet the definition of a "food desert" - a low-income community with limited access to affordable food sources like large supermarkets.

While our climate may constrain us, St. Lawrence County has rich farmland and we could produce more of our own food here.  This would be better for our health and indeed, better for the environment.

Join us at GardenShare as we work to build a strong local food system that reaches everyone in the County with healthy food!  


Fifth Annual Community SEED SWAP

Our friends at the Local Living Venture invite you to join in the fun at Elliotts' Agway for their annual swapping event!

Saturday, April 4
10 am - noon
Elliott's Winthrop Agway
648 State Rt. 11C, Winthrop, NY 13697

FREE and open to anyone -- whether you have seed to swap or not!  Lots of fun talking about garden plans -- and free seeds (while they last) for anyone who stops by, even if you have no seeds to share!  There's always a few clumps of something interesting that someone dug up from their yards to share, the spirit of neighborly swappiness!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015


A new USDA study shows that only 68% of SNAP households use their own vehicle to get to the grocery stored compared to 95% of higher income, nonparticipating households (above 185% of the Federal poverty line). About 19% of SNAP households use someone else’s car or ride with someone else, compared with 2% of higher income households. Another 13% of SNAP households walk, bike, or take public transit or a shuttle to the store. More WIC participants drive their own car to do their grocery shopping (87%).

Despite differences in how they go, households do not necessarily shop at the closest store.  Overall, households are, on average, 2.1 miles from the nearest SNAP-authorized supermarket, but their usual store is 3.8 miles away. SNAP households are, on average, just under 2 miles from the nearest SNAP-authorized supermarket but travel 3.4 miles, on average, to the store where they do most of their shopping.

Source: USDA, 3/15, Grocery Shopping