Wednesday, September 30, 2015

October is National Farm to School Month

October is National Farm to School Month! Join us as we celebrate the connections happening all over the country between children and local food. From taste tests in the cafeteria and nutrition education activities in the classroom, to farm visits and school garden harvest parties, schools, preschools, communities and organizations in all 50 states and D.C. will be celebrating this October. 

The National Farm to School Network advocated for the creation of National Farm to School Month and now organizes the annual celebration in partnership with hundreds of partner organizations. National Farm to School Month was designated by Congress in 2010 to demonstrate the growing importance of farm to school programs as a means to improve child nutrition, support local economies and educate children about the origins of food. 

Everyone can celebrate Farm to School Month! Follow the National Farm to School Network on Twitter and Facebook, and read our Farm to School Monthblogs. And, don’t forget to check in with your local school or State Lead to learn how Farm to School Month is being celebrated in your area.

For information about funding opportunities for Farm to School, as recently announced by Governor Cuomo, go here.  

Food waste and gleaning

After Monday evening's showing of "Just Eat It," there was some conversation about why we are not doing more gleaning in St. Lawrence County.  The term gleaning refers to harvesting the surplus that might be left in the fields after a farmer has completed his harvest.  This is usually done by volunteers and the produce is given to local food pantries or community meal programs.  (See an article about a successful gleaning program in the capital region here.)

Asked why GardenShare doesn't set up an online platform to allow farmers to list crops that could be harvested and volunteers to sign up to do it, I had to agree that part sounded easy and simple.

But, while setting up that online platform would be easy, establishing a full-scale gleaning program would not.  Here are just some of the challenges to address:

  • Who will provide the boxes or other containers to put the produce in?
  • Who will transport the produce to the food pantry or community meal program?
  • Will the pantry or meal program even be open when the volunteers are working?  Will they have refrigerator space to store the produce?
  • Who will supervise the volunteers at the farm and make sure they only pick in the right areas, park in the right areas, etc.?
  • What happens when a volunteer does something s/he was not supposed to at a farm and the farmer is unhappy?

I'm sure more challenges or questions would come up.  And I also know that successful gleaning programs can be operated.  Capital Roots is doing it in the Albany area.  And Foodshare, where I was the CEO for thirty years, is doing it in the Hartford, Connecticut area.

At Foodshare, we had funds for supplies, refrigerated trucks to move the food around, and staff and experienced volunteers to supervise the whole process.  GardenShare currently has none of these things!

However, if there are volunteers and farmers who would like to explore setting up a farm gleaning program in St. Lawrence County, I would surely be happy to help you do that!  Get in toucch!


Conservative think thank suggests tying SNAP benefits to work requirements

A new issue brief from the conservative American Enterprise Institute contends that SNAP should be reformed to encourage recipients to work while receiving benefits. The brief calls for states to reinstate work requirements and tighten eligibility for SNAP benefits to ensure that government resources are dedicated to the truly needy. The Institute finds that SNAP participation has increased even as the economy has improved since the recession and now exceeds Congressional Budget Office projections by about 10%. SNAP benefits are now more likely to go to recipients who earn more than 130% of the poverty line, the brief says.

Source: American Enterprise Institute, 9/8/15, SNAP Work Requirements

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

What would a government shutdown mean to farmers?

We've written about what a government shutdown means for SNAP recipients.  Go here to learn more about what it means for farmers.

SNAP and nutrition

SNAP participants on average ate about the same number of calories as both higher-income Americans and low-income people eligible but not enrolled in the program, but they consumed fewer fruits and vegetables and whole grains and more added sugars, according to a new review of 25 studies published between 2003 and 2014. "SNAP is working to reduce food insecurity. That's the good news," Tatiana Andreyeva, the study’s lead author stated. "The bad news is that the quality of diet is lower." In the studies Andreyeva reviewed, the average American scored just 58 out of 100 – a failing grade – on a measure of how well diets meet the federal dietary guidelines. But the average food stamp recipient scored even worse: 47 out of 100 in one study, and 51 out 100 in another. Their scores were even lower than what low-income people not in the program got on average: 51 out of 100 in one study and 57 out 100 in the other.

Source: KPBS, 9/18/15, SNAP Diets

Monday, September 28, 2015

Food waste and hunger

Did you go to see the movie "Just Eat It" earlier this evening?

If you did, I'm sure you were startled by some of what the movie's producers found!  But, sadly, I was not surprised at all.  After thrty years of running a Feeding America food bank in Connecticut, I have seen both the scope of the problem of food waste and the scope of the problem of hunger.

Foodshare, where I was the CEO, distributed 14 million pounds of food last year - that's more than a tractor-trailer load of food every single day!  And most of this food is product that would otherwise have been wasted due to sell-by dates, manufacturing errors, shipping errors, crop surpluses, or cosmetic issues.

While I'm proud of what we accomplished there, especially that we had transitioned from the old style food bank that gave out primarily  non-perishable items to a food bank that distributed 50% fresh fruits and vegetables and another 20% other perishables, including meat, I also have serious questions about the model.

Distributing that food certainly wasn't solving hunger.  Every single year of my thirty years, both the number of people needing food and the amount of food distributed grew.  And by 2014, the unmet need was about twice the 14 million pounds we were distributing!

I found myself very troubled by the idea that these food "seconds" were good enough for poor people.   This was brought home loud and clear by the food pantry in one wealthy Hartford suburb where they sorted out the out-of-code and dented items and gave them to the inner city pantries.  That food was not good enough for their town, but was okay to give to city residents!  Why are low-income people not entitled to the same fresh, healthy food as the rest of us.

And really, anyone I ever met standing in a food line or eating at a soup kitchen would have much preferred to be going to the grocery store and the farmers market and getting their food the same way as anyone else!

I'm not advocating that we throw good food away, but I don't believe recovering and distributing it is a solution to the problem of hunger.  Hunger is only a symptom of poverty.  We need to work on economic, education, and other social solutions to bring people out of poverty.  Even while we work on improving our system of food production and distribution so we don't waste so much.

Read more on this topic as written by one of my mentors, Mark Winne, here.



Food stamp recipients could soon be early victims of Washington's looming budget crisis. USDA has instructed states to not dispense any October benefits to food stamp recipients "until further notice." The USDA cites the threat of a federal government shutdown on Oct. 1 as the reason for holding up the benefits. Unlike the 2013 shutdown when cash reserves allowed SNAP benefits to be disbursed as normal, USDA will not have the funding necessary for SNAP benefits in October.

Source: Think Progress, 9/23/15, SNAP Shutdown II

Sunday, September 27, 2015


Although the USDA report (above) shows that food insecurity among children dropped last year, another study finds that the number of households with children experiencing severely low food security levels nearly doubled between 2003 and 2010. In addition, children raised in low- or very low-food secure households were up to 1.5 more likely to be obese. The study’s co-author says food insecurity is absolutely a preventable health threat and parents play a huge part in this. “When money is tight, food purchasing decisions are often focused on meeting immediate primal needs and are less focused on the healthiest alternative.”

Source: Healthline, 9/1/15, Food Insecure Children

Friday, September 25, 2015

Keeping healthy school meals

Congress should support raising the number of schools in the country meeting the new federal school meal nutrition standards from 95 percent to 100 percent by reauthorizing the Child Nutrition Act, without weakening the standards, writes Dan Glickman, former USDA Secretary under President Clinton, and Ann Veneman, who served as USDA Secretary under President George W. Bush, in this op-ed. These healthy meals combat childhood obesity and the chronic conditions caused by it. National and state polls show that parents and students support the revised standards and don’t think they should be rolled back. “Given increasing evidence of the economic consequences of poor health, the meals served to our nation’s schoolchildren each day should be healthy ones,” note Glickman and Veneman.

Schools, parents and kids are onboard with new school meals: Congress should follow suit – The Hill, September 17, 2015

Thursday, September 24, 2015

GardenShare seeks nominees for Growing Community award

Each year GardenShare recognizes an individual or organization whose efforts strengthen food security in northern New York State.  Past recipients have included farmers, food service staff, a food bank, community groups, and others.
GardenShare is currently seeking nominations for the 2015 Growing Community Award to be presented in January 2016.  Individuals, families, or organizations who are making progress in solving the problem of hunger through policy and advocacy work or by building a stronger food system to better serve all North Country residents may be nominated for this recognition.
Nomination form is here and is due in one week, by October 1, 2015.
A list of past award recipients can be found here.

Today is "National Teach Ag Day"

 Each day, thousands of agriculture teachers in the United States inform students about the current issues in agriculture. With a growing population and the need for more sustainable practices, agricultural education provides the platform to educate our students and the public about the importance of agriculture in our daily lives. National Teach Ag Day on September 24th aims to celebrate the contributions agriculture teachers are currently making in the communities they serve and encourage students to consider careers as agriculture teachers, a field that is currently experiencing a national shortage.
“Agriculture teachers do amazing things. From incorporating science, technology, engineering, and math in practical settings for their students, to developing leadership skills and teaching responsibility; agriculture teachers deserve to be celebrated for all that they do,” said Ellen Thompson, National Teach Ag Campaign Coordinator, “National Teach Ag Day is one way we can celebrate their accomplishments and encourage students to pursue a career in agricultural education.”
The highlight of National Teach Ag Day will be a live webcast from the American Farm Bureau Federation and American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture’s Washington, D.C. office, on September 24th from 1:45-4:00 pm eastern. The event will include special appearances by leaders in agricultural education, panels of current and future agriculture teachers, and tips for pursuing a career in agricultural education. Future agriculture teachers from across the country will be in attendance for the live webcast as well. Teachers and students celebrating across the nation will also have the opportunity to chime in through social media and video conferencing during the live webcast.
To log on to the live webcast, or for resources to help you plan your local Teach Ag Day celebration, visit

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Not by food alone

For America’s poor households, “SNAP helps, but not enough to push the rate of food insecurity even below 50 percent,” writes Parke Wilde, author of “Food Policy in the United States: An Introduction,” in this op-ed. “USDA data show that half of all those benefits are spent in the first week after issuance, and three-quarters are spent in the first two weeks.” Reducing hunger means reducing poverty, as “[f]ood alone cannot eliminate the spectrum of food-related worries and shortfalls,” concludes Wilde.

America’s hunger problem: What’s really going on – Politico, September 2015

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Income and poverty data

The U.S. median income and poverty rate were both unchanged from 2013 to 2014, according to today’s Census Bureau annual release of income, poverty and health insurance data. The nation continues to be plagued by an uneven recovery, stagnant wages, inadequate public safety net programs, and rampant inequality. While the recession technically may be long over, most families are still reeling from its effects and the plodding recovery.

New Poverty and Income Data Underscore Ongoing Struggle for Many Americans - FRAC, September 16, 2015

Monday, September 21, 2015

Can you teach math in the garden?

BEVERLY, Mass. — It’s 9:30 on a Wednesday morning in a third grade classroom at Hannah Elementary School in Beverly, Massachusetts, and Leilani Mroczkowski, Education Coordinator of Green City Growers, is pretending to be a radish. She’s squatting on the ground, holding her knees, with her long black dreads hanging down toward her dirt-caked work boots. Behind Mroczkowski, her coworker Hadas Yanay is standing on her tiptoes, with her arms stretched toward the ceiling.
“So if I’m a radish down here, and Hadas is a kale, which way is north?” Mroczkowski asks the class. The kids point towards the front of the room.
“That’s right! That way the tall kale won’t block the short carrots and radishes from the sun!”

— Maaike Baker

Civil Eats

Friday, September 18, 2015

Just Eat It! A food waste story

Join us for Just Eat It at Cinema 10 in 10 days on September 28 at 7:15!

Filmmakers and food lovers Jen and Grant dive into the issue of food waste from farm, through retail, all the way to the back of their own fridge. After catching a glimpse of the billions of dollars of good food that is tossed each year in North America, they pledge to quit grocery shopping  and survive only on discarded food. What they find is truly shocking. 

Guide to procuring local foods for school meals

Just in time for the new school year, the USDA's revised guide, Procuring Local Foods for Child Nutrition Programs, is now available and can help you decide how to buy local for your program. The guide covers procurement basics, defining local, where to find local products, and the variety of ways schools can purchase locally in accordance with regulations. This revision incorporates information about micro-purchases, buying local foods for child care and summer meal programs and more real-world examples. Check out the new guide for sample solicitation language, detailed geographic preference examples and helpful resources.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Feed Our Future

Children know that good nutrition is important for ensuring that they grow up healthy. Youth from PressPass TV produced a video discussing why they support access to healthy foods for all kids.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Harvest for Healthy Kids Pilot Study

Harvest for Healthy Kids Pilot Study: Associations Between Exposure to a Farm-to-Preschool Intervention and Willingness to Try and Liking of Target Fruits and Vegetables Among Low-Income Children in Head Start suggests that Harvest for Healthy Kids had a positive impact on willingness to try and liking of target foods. Other studies have shown that liking is a strong predictor of intake among children. Read more about the study here

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Free school meals in Plattsburgh

Did you hear the story on North Country Public Radio yesterday about Plattsburgh schools now offering free lunch and breakfast to all students?

This came about through the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) from the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 that allows schools and local educational agencies (LEAs) with high poverty rates to provide free breakfast and lunch to all students. CEP eliminates the burden of collecting household applications to determine eligibility for school meals, relying instead on information from other means-tested programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

This video from Hunger Free Vermont helps explain how it works:

Congressional call in day!

Now that August recess is over, Congress heads back to Washington with a big to-do list, including Child Nutrition Reauthorization. The current bill expires on September 30, and we need to make sure Congress knows that passing a strong child nutrition bill that strengthens programs and reaches more kids must be a priority.
You can help by participating in our national call in day and joining thousands of supporters from across the country to urge Congress to pass a strong child nutrition bill and ensure no child in America goes hungry. Let's show Congress that it's time to end child hunger in America.

Calling Congress is easy! Here's how:
  1. Just dial Feeding America's toll free number, (888) 398-8702 and listen to the pre-recorded message.
  2. Connect to your first senator and enter your zip code. Once you are connected to your first Member of Congress, state that you are a constituent and give your name and the town you are calling from.
  3. Let the office know you are calling about Child Nutrition Reauthorization.
For Senator Gillibrand, deliver this message:
As your constituent and [supporter/partner agency] of the Food Bank of Central New York, please co-sponsor the Hunger Free Summer for Kids Act (S. 1966).
For Senator Schumer, deliver this message:
As your constituent and [supporter/partner agency] of the Food Bank of Central New York, please co-sponsor the Hunger Free Summer for Kids Act (S. 1966) and the Summer Meals Act (S. 613).
For your representative, deliver this message:
As your constituent and [supporter/partner agency] of the Food Bank of Central New York, I would like to see Congress pass a child nutrition bill that includes these three priorities:
  1. Streamline regulations for summer and after school meals.
  2. A summer EBT program to help families when school is out.
  3. A non-congregate meal option so program operators like food banks can reach kids who can't access summer meal sites.

Help us spread the word by sharing with your local networks and on social media!

USDA hosts session to help returning veterans start farming

On Thursday, September 17, at 11 a.m. Eastern, Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden will sit down with a panel of veteran farmers and veteran training organizations for a live Google+ Hangout to discuss opportunities available through USDA for returning service members who are looking for long-term careers in farming, ranching and agriculture. Use the USDA Google+ page or  to join us.

If you are a military veteran living in rural America, you are not alone. Today, more than five million veterans live in rural areas, a higher concentration than in any other part of the country. Many veterans show interest in agriculture because they feel that working on the land helps them successfully transition to civilian life and provides them with a way to continue serving their community. As part of the beginning farmer community, many veterans are eligible for a wide variety of USDA programs and resources that include access to capital through our beginning farmer loan program, farm ownership loans or microloans.

Tune in to the Google+ Hangout to hear real-life stories of veterans who have successfully made the transition from active military to agriculture. You can ask questions of the panelists by leaving them in the comments section below or by using #NextGenAg on Twitter. You can also RSVP to attend the event on our Google+ page.

Leading the discussion:
Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden
Dave Paulk, owner of Sassafras Creek Farm in St. Mary’s County, Md.
Karen and Colin Archipley, co-founders of Archi’s Acres in Escondido, Calif.
Marianne Cufone, executive director of Recirculating Farms in New Orleans, La.
Justin Barclay, veteran farming program coordinator at Rodale Institute in Kutztown, Pa.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Coming in October - Food Day Youth Summit

GardenShare is sponsoring the third biennial North Country Food Day Youth Summit on Thursday, October 22, 2015 at SUNY Potsdam.  The Summit is a day of learning and action planning for teams of students and adults from high schools around the North Country.

Our keynote speaker this year is Dominic Frongillo, who has been recognized as one of the youngest elected officials in New York State and is an engaging and inspiring speaker on how young people can make a difference.

Workshops will include:

  • Youth Leadership and Change-maker Skills
  • School Gardens
  • Hunger 101
  • Junk Food Safari
  • Food Careers Beyond Chefs and Farmers
  • Snack Attack
  • Farm to School

The day will conclude with each team doing some action planning for a project they can take back to their school or community.  Past projects have included things like school gardens, changed menus in school cafeterias, and support to local food pantries or free will dinners.

If you missed it last week, our intern, Anna, wrote a great four-part blog series on the school gardening program at Keene Central Schools.  You can find it, in its entirety, here.  The Keene story really illustrates what students, faculty, and food service staff can accomplish when they share a vision and work together!

Find more information on the Youth Summit, including registration forms for a school team, here.

School Gardens Tweet Chat on Wednesday

NFSN & Slow Food USA Tweet Chat, Wed. Sep 16, 2pm EDT
School Gardens & #CNR2015 : Getting Involved Now

From containers in the classroom to multi-acre farms, school gardens are sprouting up in every type of community around the country. These green spaces are providing opportunities for kids to connect with food from the soil up, and in turn, have proven to be an effective tool for helping kids learn to try and like new foods. Simply put, hands-on agriculture and nutrition education are helping shape a healthier next generation. This month, Congress has the opportunity to show its support for school gardens and other farm to school programs as it debates Child Nutrition Reauthorization. Join the National Farm to School Network (@farmtoschool) and Slow Food USA (@slowfoodUSA) for a tweet chat on Wednesday, September 16 from 2-3pm EDT to discuss school gardens, CNR, and how the USDA Farm to School Grant Program can support healthier kids. Use the hashtag #gardens4CNR to join. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

NOT JUST GROWING A GARDEN - A School Success Story, Part 4

Guest blogger and GardenShare student intern Anna Kowanko finishes her story about Keene Central School's garden and food service program...

All students K-12 file into the gym. Their respective tables have been set with table clothes colored by art classes and some children run from table to table looking for their hand-turkey, cornucopia or pilgrim stick figure. They finally find their seats with grumbling stomachs as parents, siblings, friends, alumni, and Neighborhood House members pay and file in. Some pull up chairs next to their relatives while others make their way to the community tables that have been set for visitors. Thanksgiving dinner is a tradition. Volunteers from the high school serve the Neighborhood House members and people file through the line that for today is student served. Everyone waits not so patiently for the ice cream cups to be handed out after seconds and thirds have been guzzled. Finally, the meal ends and the students lead the community in their all too natural composting routine. Before the meal the elementary school students wearing paper-crafted Pilgrim and Indian hats chant bashfully, “we are thankful for the food we eat, the love we share, and the friends we meet.”


A growing body of evidence indicates that food insecurity can increase the risk of bad health outcomes, complicate the ability to manage illness, and increase health care costs for individuals and payers. A new study that analyzed data from more than 67,000 Canadian adults found that health care costs were significantly higher for food-insecure people, even after adjusting for other socioeconomic and demographic variables. Households with low food security (those facing uncertain or limited access to a nutritious diet) incurred health care expenses that were 49% higher than those who were food secure. And health care costs were 121% higher for those with very low food security (people who missed meals or ate smaller meals because they couldn’t afford food). Higher costs were seen across a variety of health care services, including inpatient hospitalization, emergency room visits, and physician services.

Source: Urban Institute, 8/26/15, Cost of Food Insecurity

Thursday, September 10, 2015

NOT JUST GROWING A GARDEN - A School Success Story, Part 3

Guest blogger and GardenShare student intern, Anna Kowanko, continues her story about the Keene Central School garden and food services...

In 2007 Julie Holbrook was hired as cafeteria manager at KCS. The Lake Placid News writes, “By June of that year [2007], she [Julie] was using butter instead of margarine, shell eggs instead of processed eggs, and fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables instead of canned fruits and vegetables. By September 2007, she was using tomatoes, greens, peas, squash and kale from the school gardens for meals. By June 2008, staffers were making most of the school’s food from scratch. A year later they were making all the bread products from scratch, including pizza dough. By September 2010, all beef was being bought from local farms, there was no flavored milk and the school became a CSA member of Essex Farm.” More waste can be composted from whole foods, and this improved compost is then brought over to the garden, which Julie expanded her first summer on the job.

The mission in Julie’s cafeteria is for children to get most of the nutrition that they need in the day at school so that their parents have one less thing to worry about at home. She explains that if you give children the chance, they will appreciate good food. She writes, “The very best is when students start making the connection between how they feel physically, emotionally and energy wise by the food they are eating:” they start to realize that they deserve good food. Many families even send their kids to Keene for the quality of the cafeteria.

(to be continued tomorrow)

GardenShare plans fun run / walkathon

A great committee of volunteers is planning GardenShare's next fundraiser - a fun run and walkathon called the Fight Hunger 5K.  Volunteers are handling virtually all of the planning - recruiting corporate sponsors, setting up the route, getting donations of snacks and water, and a volunteer even designed the great logo!

How can you help?

Run, walk, pull the kids in a wagon—whatever works for you, join us to raise awareness and funds for GardenShare!  Runners, please note that this is a fundraising fun run and will not be timed.

Make it more fun by putting together a team from your workplace, school, or house of worship!

Event begins and ends at the Potsdam Farmers Market at Ives Park on Main Street.  Feel free to stay after and enjoy the Market!

How to get started:
  • Take a moment and go here to register and help the volunteers with the planning.
  • Gather a team, if you can, from work, school, or your place of worship!
  • Ask friends, family, classmates, or co-workers to make a donation to sponsor you and bring those donations with you to the event!  You can find a form for this purpose here.
  • If you’d like to raise money online, go to and set up a page for yourself.  Then you can e-mail friends and family to ask for a donation via your page.
  • Join us on October 10, bring your signed registration form and any cash or checks you have collected,  and come dressed for the weather.


A key aspect of SNAP is the extent to which it reaches its target population—the rate of participation among people who are eligible for SNAP benefits. USDA measures participation in two ways: monthly and annually. A new report shows participation and eligibility differ markedly depending on the timeframe used and the group examined. Among its findings for 2012:

·         About 45% more individuals were estimated to be eligible for SNAP at some time during the year than were eligible in an average month of that year.
·         About 57% of individuals who were ever eligible in the year were eligible for only part of it (1 to 11 months), while the rest (43%) were eligible for the full year. Of those ever eligible in the year, about 66% of elderly individuals (age 66 years or older) were estimated to be eligible all 12 months, as were about 77% of disabled people. In contrast, only about 25% of the working poor who were ever eligible during the year were eligible all 12 months.
·          An estimated 76.6 million people were eligible at some time during the year, while only about 54.1 million people ever participated, resulting in an annual SNAP participation rate of 70.7%.

Source: USDA, 8/25/15, SNAP Participation

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

NOT JUST GROWING A GARDEN - A School Success Story, Part 2

Guest blogger and GardenShare student intern Anna Kowanko continues her story about Keene Central School's gardens and food services...

The KCS garden now lies behind the elementary classrooms, guarded by Giant Mountain. The beds run parallel to the soccer field is so integrated into school life that it has its own rules: a softball hit into the garden in the air is a homerun – on a bounce and it’s a double. But, the garden is protected, protected by the community, the tradition, and the ethic it has helped to create in the students and community.

Each elementary classroom opens up onto two 4’ by 12’ raised beds. Behind the Kindergarten baby pumpkins will be seen growing adjacent to the first and second grades’ corn, beans and squash. The third grade plants potatoes to make potato chips and fourth grade grows cherry tomatoes. Kale for chips will be seen poking out of the fifth grade plot, and the sixth grade focuses on carrots. As is, the garden provides some rhubarb, lettuce, garlic, carrots, cherry tomatoes, strawberries and asparagus to the cafeteria, though most produce is used in the classroom.

An After School Garden Club started by Bunny Goodwin meets one afternoon a week. They circle at the start and end of each session to talk about the garden, what they have done that day, and complete a journal entry, always snacking on something they have grown. Goodwin explains, “the garden is […] not a place where we try to feed the school, the garden is an outdoor classroom for all students, incorporating not just nutrition and physical education, but also math, science, history, language, music and art.” She believes that children will eat fruits and vegetables if they plant them, watch them grown, and harvest them. By the end of the season, children who previously would never touch vegetables were eating the ones that they had watched grow. And, by the time a student begins 7th grade, the sign hanging in the cafeteria declaring, “FROM THE KCS GARDEN,” means something.

(to be continued tomorrow)

The joys of nonprofit work

Sometimes people think my title - Executive Director - sounds pretty fancy.  But I did spend a good chunk of my day last Friday and again today folding and labeling newsletters!

I enjoy this work, though, for the chance to get to know some of the great volunteers and interns at GardenShare a bit better as we discuss our families, what we're reading and the difference between social justice and social action as we labor away!


PS  Would you like to volunteer?  Get in touch!

Child food insecurity unchanged

Despite improvements in the economy, data released by the USDA last week shows that household and child food insecurity remained unchanged in 2014 at the national level, making child nutrition programs all the more important for ensuring all of our children have the chance to grow up healthy and strong.


SNAP kept 10.3 million people — including 4.9 million children — above the poverty line in 2012, using data that correct for underreporting.  This is twice as many people as in figures previously reported by the Census Bureau that do not make these corrections. SNAP also lifted 2.1 million children out of “deep poverty” (defined as incomes below half of the poverty line) in 2012, more than any other government assistance program.  SNAP keeps more households with children out of “extreme poverty”— defined as having income of less than $2 per person per day — than any other government program.  One reason SNAP is so effective in fighting extreme poverty is that it focuses on many of the poorest households.  Roughly 92% of monthly SNAP benefits go to households below the poverty line, and 57% go to households below half of the poverty line (that is, below $814 a month for a family of three in 2013).  One in five SNAP households lives on cash income of less than $2 per person a day.

Source: Center for Budget & Policy Priorities, 9/2/15, SNAP & the Safety Net

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

NOT JUST GROWING A GARDEN - A school success story

GardenShare Intern Anna Kowanko is our guest blogger this week with a four-part series on the Keene Central School food service.

The compost bin is a permanent fixture in the Keene Central School Cafeteria. Situated next to the dishwasher, milk bucket and trash can, the bin has become not only a KCS claim to fame, but also the foundation of a deeper relationship to food: “good” food specifically is now part of the glue that sticks the Keene community together. Children line up and scrape their compost as normally as they throw out their milk cartons and run off to recess.

Bunny Goodwin, a veteran KCS mom who has remained active in the KCS community, initiated the school’s compost program on Earth Day in 1995. The program was a response to the School Board’s complaints about dump fees. She writes, “I wanted to teach people how to manage their trash in an economical and environmentally friendly manner, thus developing a sense of stewardship for the land.  It is a matter of learning new habits and what better place to do this than in a school.” The compost pile itself is out past the parking lot, in a solid, two sectioned structure built by students and parents. For the first and last eight weeks of school National Honor Society students can be seen making the daily drag from the cafeteria out to the pile. A hand truck laden with compost bin teeters over parking lot pebbles and grass bumps, only occasionally falling through watchful arms. The compost pile is turned throughout the year and eventually makes its way to the KCS garden.

(to be continued tomorrow)


The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kid Act has improved the quality of school meals as well as the health and wellbeing of our children, says USDA secretary Tom Vilsack citing research that shows:

·         Kids are eating more healthy food and throwing less food away
·         Students like the taste of the healthier school meals
·         Kids are eating more fruits and vegetables
·         Over 95% of schools report that they are successfully meeting the updated nutrition standards
·         Participation is increasing substantially in many areas of the country
·         School lunch revenue is up

Source: USDA, 9/1/15, School Meals

Monday, September 7, 2015


In most large U.S. cities, the cost of maintaining a modest standard of living, where families don't struggle to put food on the table or pay the rent, requires income that's far beyond the federal poverty line (FPL), according to a new study from the liberal Economic Policy Institute. Take the FPL for a family of four, which was $23,850 last year. (Even the U.S. median household income of $53,046 would fall short in every location, EPI found.) The poverty level is about half of what a family of four would need to get by in the country's least expensive metropolitan area -- Morristown, Tennessee—where a two-parent, two-child family would require gross income of $49,114 simply to cover rent, taxes, food, transportation, child care and other basics.  Needless to say, the FPL doesn’t come close to what New Yorkers would need--where a family of four needs $98,722 to afford their basic needs. The median household income in the Big Apple stands at only $58,003.

Source: CBS News, 8/26/15, Poverty Level Outdated

Friday, September 4, 2015


The Oxford English dictionary has recently added the word “Hangry” to its lexicon. The announcement comes as new research reveals how people can suffer from becoming bad tempered or irritable as a result of hunger. Research has shown that people who make decisions on an empty stomach are nearly twice as likely to make the wrong one compared to people who have eaten. In clinical trials, 62% of adults got more decisions wrong when they were hungry than when they were not. Less than a third of participants who had gone for at least four hours without food managed to find the correct solution to a problem. But after eating a well-balanced meal, nearly half were able to make the right decision, according to researchers.

SOURCE: Herts & Essex Observer, 8/28/15, Don't be Hangry

September is NOFA-NY Locavore Month!

In addition to it being National Hunger Action Month, NOFA-NY is celebrating local food, farmers and farm-to-table cookery during September. This is a chance to talk up your love of local food and your support of sustainable farming to your friends and family.  It's a great time to share in experiences cooking together, dining at farm-to-table restaurants, taking action to shape policy in support of organic farms, and visiting the farms themselves! From asparagus and apples to wine and wheat, we are fortunate to live in an abundant agricultural state. NOFA-NY's online directory can help you find the most delicious, fresh, healthy food available in your region.
NOFA-NY will be offering resources through their website, sharing experiences on a blog and Facebook, and keeping you informed of Locavore events in New York.

At GardenShare, we are working to make the connections between local food, sustainable agriculture, and the problem of hunger in our midst, so what a great way to start bringing these issues together!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

How to Donate Surplus Food from K-12 Schools

Changing How We Think About Our Resources for a Better Tomorrow:  
How to Donate Surplus Food from K-12 Schools

Join us for a free webinar on Thursday, September 17th 2015 at 1:00pm -2:30pm EST / 10:00-11:30 am PST

Register here or go to:

Every year, Americans throw away $165 billion worth of food.  World-wide, 1/3 of all food is lost or wasted.  We use 25% of our potable water to grow food that is ultimately lost or wasted.  This occurs while 1 in 6 Americans is food insecure.

This U.S. EPA-hosted webinar will show K-12 schools how to improve their bottom line, feed hungry people, and reduce wasted food by learning from schools engaged in surplus food donation from school cafeterias.  Also, the USDA will clarify its food donation policy and the legal implications of surplus food donation.


Poverty is actually a common experience in the US. Most of us will be poor, and most of us will be on welfare, too. The official Census Bureau measure shows a 2013 poverty rate of 14.5%— that’s 45 million people in households with gross annual income below the poverty line of $24,624 for a family of four. But this measure counts only those whose total income ended up below that line at the end of the year; it tells nothing about how their income may have fluctuated during the year. Suppose someone supporting a partner and two young children on an annual salary of $50,000, is laid off on June 30 and doesn’t find another job by the end the year. His or her gross income for the year was $25,000. Even though the person had zero income for the second half of that year, the poverty rate doesn’t include the person because their annual income was above the threshold. That’s a problem. The Census Bureau knows this, so it publishes a “dynamic” poverty rate that looks at movement in and out of poverty over time. This data show that 34.5% of the population were poor for two months or more at least once in the four-year period from 2009 to 2012. But this still understates the problem. Examining relative poverty rates from 1968-2011, shows that more than 60% of Americans between the ages of 25 and 60 fell into the bottom 20% of the income distribution for at least a year , and 25% were in the bottom quintile for five years or more. The boundary between being poor, low-income, and middle income is thin and permeable, and many of us are just an accident, illness, job loss, or newborn baby away from slipping into poverty.

Source: Spotlight on Poverty, 8/12/15, Close to Poverty

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Improving child nutrition programs - action needed

Across the North Country, children are going back to school this week.  For some of them, the highlight of getting back in school is having a healthy meal at lunchtime, and maybe even breakfast.  In St. Lawrence County, more than half of our children qualify for free meals at school.  Did you ever wonder where they eat in the summer?

Congress has a chance to do something about this challenge and help ensure that all of our children have healthy diets, for The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act expires on September 30.  This legislation authorizes the following programs:  National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Summer Food Service Program, Child and Adult Care Food Program, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (commonly known as WIC).  Failing to pass this legislation puts all of these programs at risk.

In the course of the conversations about these programs in Washington, our elected officials have started to understand some of the challenges of these programs, particularly the Summer Food Service Program, face in rural areas.   While the Summer Food Service Program was designed to serve children who get a free lunch during the school year, there are particular challenges implementing this program in rural areas like St. Lawrence County.  The current legislation requires that the meals be served at a central site that has an enrichment activity - a good idea, but hard to do with the distances involved here.  The program also requires that at least 50% of children in a district be eligible for the free meals in order to have a site - also challenging in places where the poverty is less concentrated than in urban areas.

However, some great ideas have come up as it relates to that question of where the kids from low-income families eat in the summer. One idea is to remove the requirement for on-site feeding, so meals could be delivered via other models to children in remote communities.  Another idea is to lower the threshold for a summer food site to 40% of the area children being eligible for a free meal - this would also help our small towns.  Finally, there has been conversation about streamlining and simplifying some of these programs, including the idea of providing families with extra benefits on their EBT cards for food purchases while their children are out of school.  This last model has been piloted and tested successfully in a number of communities around the nation.

What can you do?  Senator Gillibrand and Congresswoman Stefanik sit on the respective committees considering this legislation in the Senate and the House.  Send each of them an e-mail urging them to support alternatives in the Summer Food Service program that will help rural communities, including the summer EBT option, the non-congregate meal model, and streamlining of the program.

Here's where to contact them:

Senator Gillibrand

Congresswoman Stefanik


Breakfast is available at nearly 90,000 schools across the country courtesy of USDA’s School Breakfast Program. On an average school day in fiscal 2014, some 13.5 million students participated. The breakfast program began in 1975, and throughout its history participation was considerably less than in the National School Lunch Program, which is 30 years older.  Nevertheless, as breakfast funding increased the number of participating schools and children has steadily grown. The School Breakfast Program has historically targeted low-income areas; and its share of reduced-price or free meals has been larger than the School Lunch Program’s. But this difference between the two programs has narrowed, with each serving over two-thirds of its meals at reduced price or free. A notable increase in the free and reduced-price share in both programs in recent years likely reflects more children qualifying and choosing to participate during the 2007-09 recession, along with policy changes that have simplified the process of program qualification.

Source: USDA, 8/26/15, School Breakfast

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The supply and demand of apples

"... tens of thousand of tons of domestic apples are being dumped due to oversupply and cheap Chinese apple juice concentrate is coming into the other side of the country to supply a large, nationally distributed hard cider manufacturer. Does this make sense? Why do we simultaneously export and then import the same crops, or in this case, waste crops and then import the same crops? Of course, it would take an entire economics lesson to tease out this distribution conundrum..."

Read the full story here.


An explosion of recent research has deepened our understanding of how crucial early life experiences are to the physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development. Poor nutrition during the critical first five years of a child’s life can negatively affect child development in both the short- and long-term and hinder adult achievement and productivity. A new issue brief from the Food Research and Action Council explains how federal nutrition assistance programs, like WIC, and CACFP,  provide infants and children with access to nutritious food  and set the foundation for their healthy development.  Extensive evidence demonstrates WIC’s importance in reducing food insecurity and supporting all facets of child health and development and diet quality. CACFP has a smaller but growing evidence base demonstrating its importance for young children’s diet quality, weight status, and overall health.
Source: Food Research & Action Council, 8/25/15, Child Nutrition