Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Reflections from a GardenShare intern

Intern Camille Duquet reflects on her experience at GardenShare:

Before my senior year in college at St Lawrence University, I had never thought of food and food issues in a critical way. It was not until I enrolled in my capstone thesis class ‘You Are What You Eat’ that I began to understand the implications of being food insecure and the many difficulties that millions of Americans in that position face every day. Food insecurity refers to the state of not having consistent or reliable access to nutritious food due to lack of resources, most predominantly caused by low-income and poverty.  Unfortunately, this state leads to hunger, malnutrition, and other weight related illness such as overweight and obesity.

It then occurred to me that St Lawrence County being one of the poorest counties in New York State, there were hundreds of people in my community suffering from food insecurity and I had never stopped once to think about it. It suddenly became a more personal issue that I wanted to learn more about and find ways to help fellow community members in need.

As I was looking through the placement options as part of my Community Based Learning class, listed was GardenShare. I had never heard about the nonprofit organization before, but I thought this would be the perfect way to volunteer in the community as well as gain knowledge on various projects being implemented to help fight hunger in the North Country.

For twenty years now, GardenShare has been responsible for providing healthy, wholesome foods from local farms to community members in need at an affordable price. GardenShare supports both the local farming economy and the health of other community members by offering the choice of obtaining fresh produce to people who may not otherwise have been able to afford it.

Throughout my time as a volunteer intern, I have been able to experience first hand at the Farmers Market the work done by GardenShare. On Tuesday mornings, along side Jennifer Whittaker, under the Farmers Market Manager's tent I am responsible for handing out the tokens redeemable in exchange for market goods from all participating Farmers Market vendors. Through donations and grants, GardenShare has made it possible for individuals on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, to not only purchase farmers market produce using their EBT card but also double the desired amount completely free of charge. This allows individuals on a SNAP budget to have access to more abundant healthy and nutritious foods while also helping the local farming economy.

Beyond the Farmers Market, GardenShare is also involved in many policy advocacy works to end hunger issues in the North Country. I have been a part of one these projects led by executive director Gloria McAdam, called Hunger 101. Through mock situations, yet using real life scenarios, participants are taught the difficulties of being on a tight food budget.

Through GardenShare I have gained a deeper understanding of the implications of food insecurity in the North Country. It has provided a learning platform to be implemented in my final thesis paper, but most importantly it has opened my eyes on the issue of hunger and provided feasible solutions in order for everybody to have access to healthy, wholesome foods.

-Camille Duquet