Tuesday, February 28, 2017


The Agriculture House Committee recently held a public hearing on the pros and cons of restricting how SNAP benefits can be used. This hearing is the latest discussion over the news that people use food stamps to buy junk food, which some see as a flagrant abuse of a government program.  But two sociology professors from North Carolina State University write that trying to restrict what poor people eat ignores the heart of the problem: that many poor families don’t have adequate resources and support. For the past 5 years, they have been studying 124 low-income women, even going to the market with some of them. They found that the women in the study consumed about the same amount of “empty calories” as other women. Where they fell short was for healthy but relatively expensive foods, such as seafood, fresh fruit, and vegetables. This  pattern follows national dietary patterns--although both rich and poor Americans generally have cut down on sugary drinks and are eating more whole grains, poor people fall behind with pricy foods like fresh fruits and nuts.

Source: The Hill, 2/17/17, Restricting SNAP Purchases; USA Today, 2/16/17, Junk Food on SNAP

Monday, February 27, 2017

Third intern for spring semester

New intern Eliza introduces herself...

Hi! My name is Eliza Gillilan I am one of the new student interns this spring. I am currently a sophomore at St. Lawrence majoring in environmental studies and sociology, but I am originally from a mountain town in Montana. Agriculture is Montana’s largest industry and even growing up in a relatively large town, I’ve always held an interest in the farming taking place across the state. My parents’ were key in helping me foster a connection to local food through involvement with our community food co-op and CSA programs. Some of my fondest memories are school trips to local goat farms and learning how to milk a cow on the playground. When I arrived in Canton for school I expected the local food climate to be similar to that I had grown up with because of the sheer amount of farmland I was seeing; however, what I didn’t realize was the privilege associated with being able to make more ecologically and healthful decisions when it comes to buying food.

My first semester at St. Lawrence I took a class called “The Secret Life of Food” in which we discussed everything from the natural history of staple crops to sustainability and food insecurity and injustice. It was in the class where I was exposed to the fact that St. Lawrence county, despite its agricultural outputs, is considered a food desert because so many of its residents live out of reasonable range of a grocery store. We also discussed the fact that buying healthy foods is most often much more expensive option than processed foods, despite the trade off in health benefits. Ideally, everyone would love to feed their family in the healthiest way, and ideally with food that is grown nearby; however, in reality, this food has become a privilege to those who can afford to pay for it. This injustice is what drew me to choose GardenShare as my CBL placement. I think that the organization’s programs in the community to make access to healthy, local food a right rather than a privilege are so important especially in a rural community like Canton because there is the ability to grow food here. I am excited to see and contribute to the great work being done here at Gardenshare in my time here and to further the progress towards the vision of a community where everyone eats in a way that is good themselves and for farmers. 


In both percentage terms and absolute numbers, federal safety net programs like SNAP reduced poverty among working-age whites without a college degree more than they did among Hispanics and African Americans with similar educations, and far more than they did among college-educated adults of any race. The number of these working-age whites, in fact, exceeded the combined number of non-college-educated blacks, Hispanics, and members of other races that made such gains. The results underscore the challenge Republicans face reconciling their ideological determination to shrink the federal government with the practical needs of their increasingly working-class coalition.

Source: Atlantic, 2/16/17, Safety Net

National Strawberry Day

New student intern, Eliza Gillilan contributes today's blog entry...

It may seem odd that February would be the month of National Strawberry Day, but with their red color and heart-like shape it may be appropriate that they share the month with Valentine’s Day. Although not in season here in Northern New York, strawberries are an ever-present fixture in grocery stores in the area courtesy of Florida farmers and can be found locally starting in June through July. One of my favorite ways to eat strawberries is in strawberry shortcake, a classic dessert that, in my opinion, is appropriate in any season. Here is a recipe by Mary Nolan over at that received some especially good reviews.

What you will need:
               1 1/2 lbs strawberries, stemmed and quartered
                 5 tablespoons sugar
                 2 cups all-purpose flour
                 2 teaspoons baking powder
             1/4 teaspoon baking soda
             2 tablespoons sugar
          3/4 teaspoon salt
             1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Whipped Cream:
                1 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled
                3 tablespoons sugar
                1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
                1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

Sunday, February 26, 2017


In extremely poor American families, teens go hungry more often than younger children, a new study finds. Parents will first forgo food themselves to feed their kids. But if there still isn't enough food for everyone, younger children take priority over teens, the research shows. The researchers said about 6% of kids who were 11 years old or younger weren't getting enough to eat, and 12% of those aged 12 to 18 regularly went hungry. Of those older children, 14% of boys didn't get enough food, compared to 10% of girls.

Source: UPI, 2/15/17, Hungry Teens

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Cabin Fever Trivia Night

Socrates once said, "I know nothing except the fact of my ignorance." It's safe to say Socrates was selling himself short with that statement, and yet how often, when asked to play a trivia game, have you or someone you know backed out with a statement like "Oh, I don't know anything. There are so many people who are smarter than me!" 

Chances are, like Socrates, you are smarter than you give yourself credit for. So don't let lack of confidence stop you from joining us at GardenShare's Cabin Fever Trivia Night on March 18 at the Potsdam Elks Club.

Tony Lynn from THE WOLF 95.3 FM is stepping in again this year as our MC. We'll test your knowledge on local North Country trivia - you got this! You can win prizes! You can enjoy the cash bar! You can go home with bragging rights and the title of "GardenShare's smartest supporter!" But most important, you can have fun with friends and community members while supporting GardenShare. Teams of four can register here or by calling the GardenShare office at 315-261-8054.

So spread the word, sign up soon before the event sells out, and get ready to ring in spring and exercise your brain!

Saturday, March 18, 2017
7:00 PM
Potsdam Elks Club
10 Elm Street, Potsdam

Admission is $20 per person and $10 for students
Proceeds benefit GardenShare

Thank you to our sponsors!

Presenting sponsors:

Partnership sponsor:

Friend Sponsor:

Mort Backus and Sons

New Toolkit to Help Pediatrician's Spot Hunger

Food insecurity is detrimental to children’s health and well-being. Children in food-insecure households are more likely to get sick and be hospitalized than their peers and suffer developmental delays, behavioral problems, and obesity. Pediatricians and other practitioners working with children play a vital role in protecting children and their families from food insecurity and its harmful consequences. To help them, The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Food Research & Action Center have jointly released a new resource: Addressing Food Insecurity. The toolkit provides specific information on how to screen patients for food insecurity; make the appropriate interventions, most commonly by referring patients and their families to the federal nutrition programs: and advocate for greater food security and improved overall health of children and their families.

Source: Food Research & Action Center, 2/9/17, Pediatricians' Toolkit

Friday, February 24, 2017

School Breakfast Grants & Game On Grants

Action for Healthy Kids combats childhood obesity, undernourishment, and physical inactivity by helping schools become healthier places where kids can lead healthier lives. The organization partners with dedicated volunteers — teachers, students, moms, dads, and school-wellness experts — from within the ranks of its more than sixty-thousand-strong network to create healthful school changes.

To that end, the organization has issued a Request for Proposals for its 2017-18 Breakfast for Healthy Kids and Game on Grants programs. Award amounts will be based on building enrollment, project type, potential impact of the project, and a school's ability to mobilize parents and students around school-wellness initiatives.

1) School Breakfast Grants: Up to five hundred and fifty schools will receive grant awards ranging between $500 and $3,000 to support increased breakfast participation. Eligible schools may apply to pilot or expand their school breakfast programs (including alternative or universal alternative).

2) Game On Grants: Up to five hundred schools will be awarded grants for physical activity and nutrition initiatives that support schools in becoming nationally recognized as a health-promoting school. Grants will range between $500 and $1,000.

Deadline: April 7, 2017

Today is CSA Day - buy your CSA share early to help your local farmer

February 24 marks the third annual National CSA Sign-Up Day when you can join other like-minded people around the North Country who are committed to eating healthy foods, supporting their local farmer, and being adventurous in the kitchen.  February sounds like a crazy time to be thinking about buying food from a local farmer.  But the concept behind Community Supported Agriculture or CSA is to share both the risk and the rewards with the farmer.  By purchasing a CSA Share early in the year, you help the farmer plan for the growing season and offer the farm an important infusion of cash for the purchase of seeds and equipment.

CSA is like a subscription to a season’s worth of locally grown produce.  You pay for your share now, the farmer grows the food, and then each week you pick up your share of the harvest.  It is a form of investment that allows small farmers to continue growing on a scale that may not be sustainable without the CSA model. CSA members enjoy the quality of fresh fruits and vegetables for their family, while supporting their local farmer.

Getting food from a CSA is different from going to a farmers market or the grocery store. As a CSA member, you make a seasonal commitment to a small farmer in your area and receive a weekly box of assorted local food. CSA members take pleasure in knowing where and how their food is grown and experimenting with new foods or recipes they may not have tried before.  CSA farmers typically teach members what’s in season throughout the year and help them appreciate and cook food to which they may not otherwise be exposed.

One challenge of the CSA model is the need to spend a larger than usual sum of money in the next month or two, without the immediate return of food for those dollars spent.  While, over the course of the season, you’ll likely get more than your money’s worth, this can pose a challenge for lower-income and working families, as well as seniors.

In St. Lawrence County, GardenShare is working to address that problem by raising money to subsidize CSA shares for working families and low-income households.  GardenShare also helps the farmers accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called food stamps) as a form of payment.

To find a CSA here in St. Lawrence County or learn more about support for lower-income families to purchase CSA shares, go to 

Thursday, February 23, 2017


The House Agriculture Committee is delving into one of the most controversial topics surrounding SNAP: whether to limit what the more than 40 million SNAP recipients can buy with their benefits. Banning SNAP recipients from being able to buy sugary drinks has gotten some traction in certain public health and far-right circles, but it looks like the committee’s hearing will be decidedly open-minded on the debate, according to the Food Research & Action Council, which will testify at the hearing on February 16, along with an expert from the American Enterprise Institute, which supports a ban, and other national experts.

Source: Politico, 2/16/17, House SNAP Hearing

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Meet another new intern joining GardenShare for spring semester

Name: Haley Bolton

Home base: Washington DC

Role at GardenShare: SLU Student Intern

How long? Only 2 weeks thus far, will be here for 2 months

Why I do what I do at GardenShare:  My work at GardenShare is for my Community Based Learning course at St. Lawrence University.  I am a current senior who has spent the last four years living and learning in the North Country.  Throughout my time here a few of my courses have been centered around identifying issues within the larger community, understanding the root of the problem, and developing tactical processes by which to aid or solve the issue through research methods in the Communications field.  I have gained knowledge from my classwork of some of the critical areas for improvement, one of them being food and nutrition assistance.  I chose to Intern here because I saw the overarching benefits that GardenShare has on the health and well being of an entire community.  Bringing people and successful programs together supports local business, but also creates interconnected, educated citizens that are willing to instill healthy values towards food and consumerism to the next generation.  Although I only play a small part in the greater structure, the work that GardenShare does is going above and beyond to help the North Country better itself. 

Role outside of GardenShare:  I am a senior at St. Lawrence University, majoring in Performance and Communication Studies and Business.  Additionally I am a member of the Tri Delta Sorority, Beta Chapter. 

Hobbies:  I enjoy reading for pleasure and skiing.

Last read?  East of Eden, John Steinbeck

If you were a superhero, what would your power be?  Teleportation

What one word would you use to describe yourself?  Personable

What are you most proud of?  Probably my resume, I’ve worked very hard year round for the past 5 years both in school and outside of my education with jobs, internships, and positions.  My resume showcases my investments, care, and time I have put in to develop my skills and experience to be best prepared for the future.  

School Seedling Program

Schools across New York are eligible to receive free seedlings for spring planting through the DEC School Seedling Program, which provides 50 tree seedlings or a mixed packet of 30 wildlife shrubs to any public or private school that would like to participate. The seedlings can be planted on school grounds or other community spaces, and offer teachers a great resource to enhance environmental lessons. Applications to participate are available at DEC's School Seedling Program website, or by contacting the Saratoga Tree Nursery at (518) 581-1439. Interested schools can also contact the nearest DEC regional forestry office to request a "School Seedlings" brochure, which contains all the information necessary to place an order.

Deadline: March 31, 2017

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

New interns at GardenShare

A new group of interns has joined GardenShare in recent weeks.  Here are some thoughts from one of them...

"One of the biggest reasons I joined GardenShare is because of the work this organization do for people in communities. GardenShare is monumental because they cater to the village of Canton in the St. Lawrence County. St Lawrence County is an area where people have to sacrifice many factors in their life to have proper food. At times some people here don't know what is offers in a town like this in terms of food such as farmers markets for healthier options. This is where GardenShare comes in and educates the community on how to shop and eat better to live a longer fulfilling life. Besides spending my time at GardenShare, I love reading, writing, and researching community issues."

Fanta Conde
St. Lawrence University
Interning for 10 weeks 

Monday, February 20, 2017


Wholesome Wave, a chef-founded nonprofit founded, has worked for the last six years on an initiative to get healthcare providers to write prescriptions for produce, rather than just pills. It’s called FVRx (Fruit and Vegetable Rx), and it’s ready for a nationwide rollout after getting started in downtown Los Angeles where national retail chain Target has sponsored the biggest FVRx program to date. More than 500 families there are now receiving produce prescriptions from their doctor, along with vouchers to purchase fresh produce at Target stores and nearby farmers markets. All of the participating families live at or below the poverty line, and a quarter of the children are overweight or obese. The majority of enrolled families receive SNAP benefits, which provide about $4 per person per day for food. The FVRx program adds another $4 per day for a family of four, which they must spend exclusively on fresh produce. The program has 3 crucial ingredients: (1) a neighborhood-based health care center; (2) food providers, which are typically a combination of local retail stores and farmers markets ; and (3) an entity that provides health and diet counseling and other services aimed it fostering the skills and habits of healthy eating.

Source: Modern Farmer, 1/31/7, Prescription Veggies

Friday, February 17, 2017


A new study by two Brown University economists finds that SNAP benefits increase a household’s overall spending on food each month and that an equivalent cash benefit would lead to much smaller increases in food spending. For every $100 in SNAP benefits that a household receives, the household spends just over $50 more on food each month. Households in the study that received an average of $200 per month in SNAP benefits increased their spending on SNAP-eligible food products by approximately $110. This means that SNAP benefits raise overall food spending by between 50 and 60 percent of the benefit’s value. The finding counters what many traditional economic models predict. The study’s authors argue that a range of evidence implies that a cash benefit of $200 per month would raise food spending by less than $20 or 10 percent of the subsidy value.

Source: Brown University, 2/6/17, SNAP Boosts Food Spending

Thursday, February 16, 2017


Last week, food and agriculture policy experts met to discuss the 2018 Farm Bill. The discussion was hosted by AGree, a bipartisan food policy organization supported by eight of the largest food and ag-focused foundations. One key topic of conversation was the future of SNAP, which like other nutrition programs are funded through the Farm Bill and account for about 75% of its spending ($89 billion in 2016). Republican legislators have in the past proposed removing SNAP from the Farm Bill and converting it to a block grant. Several participants at the AGree event seemed confident that the SNAP program wouldn’t experience major cuts, let alone block-granting. But Eric Mitchell, from the anti-hunger advocacy organization Bread for the World, was more skeptical. He expressed concern that the Republican Congress might still pursue block-granting SNAP, even against the wishes of agriculture groups, and noted that several powerful Republicans have supported a move to block grants, including House Agriculture Committee chair Mike Conaway and House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Source: Civil Eats, 2/8/17, Farm Bill

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


The National Conference of State Legislatures has created the Hunger Partnership, which includes representatives of major corporation and anti-hunger organizations. The Hunger Partnership links legislators, legislative staff, and interested businesses to identify innovative and successful programs and develop bipartisan and balanced materials and mechanisms to support legislators in their efforts to reduce hunger in America. State legislators oversee the administration of federal programs, regulate and fund state programs, and convene otherwise disconnected partners to promote effective programs.

Source: NCSL, 1/25/17, Hunger Partnership

Tuesday, February 14, 2017


There are 1,364 factories in the US that produced mainly chocolate and cocoa products in 2014, employing 42,043 people. California led the nation with 151 factories, followed by New York with 119. Last year, they shipped over $16 billion worth of products. The 493 plants that made other kinds of candy employed about 20,000 people and shipped around $10 billion of confections. In addition, US sellers, working out of over 3,200 stores, imported around $3.4 billion in candy, nearly one-third from Canada.

Source: US Census Bureau, 1/23/17, Valentine's Day

Monday, February 13, 2017

2017 Local Food Guide

The cover photo for the 2016 Guide was taken by
Debbie Thacker
Planning is well underway for the 2017 edition of the Local Food Guide.  Here's what you need to know:

Cover art contest - GardenShare is running a cover art contest for the cover of the 2017 Local Food Guide.  Artwork to be considered can include photography or any two-dimensional piece that can be re-printed.  Artwork should illustrate the variety of local food available in the region.  To enter, send a high resolution file to by March 31, 2017.

Listings - Listings for farms range from no cost to $25. 

Advertising - Advertisements in the Guide range from $100 to $500, with 10,000 copies distributed around St. Lawrence County.  

To advertise or to be listed in GardenShare's St. Lawrence County Local Food Guide, go here, call 315-261-8054, or email  Deadline for listings and advertisements is March 3, 2017.

Friday, February 10, 2017


In her new book, The Unbanking of America, Lisa Servon helps to dispel the popular misconception that most poor people and people who use expensive, alternative financial services like payday lenders don’t have enough financially savvy to understand how expensive the services are, or that they don’t handle their finances well enough to have access to cheaper, traditional banking options. In fact, Servon finds, most people who use alternative lenders are all too aware of how finances work and are desperately trying to use a system bent against them. She notes that many people who rely on pricey, short-term payday loans actually have credit cards with lower interest rates that they haven’t yet maxed out. They choose payday loans over credit cards not because they don’t understand how interest works, but because they’re smart enough to know that payday delinquency won’t be reported to a credit bureau in the same way late credit card payments are, thus preserving their credit score which can help them obtain a variety of other necessities including more credit. “What if,” Servon writes, “instead of focusing narrowly on people’s ‘poor choices’ ... we worked harder to understand the options available to people and the context in which they make those choices?”

Source: Atlantic, 1/18/17, The Underbanked

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Uncertainty and self-care - a message from Gloria

In my world at GardenShare, there are lots of things to worry about...  Fundraising did not meet our goals in 2016.  Where's the money going to come from in 2017?  Some of our new national political leadership have expressed clear desire to slash programs that help poor people, including those GardenShare works with.  The list could go on...

With all of this (and more!) uncertainty, it's more important than ever that we take care of ourselves.

And so, I will be doing just that.  Headed out on a ten-day vacation tomorrow to sunny Arizona.  I expect to get in some horseback riding, some hiking, and lots of general relaxation.

All of those challenges will be here when I get back, but hopefully my refreshed perspective and attitude will let me tackle them with renewed vigor!


PS - Here's a photo of me riding Apache on an Arizona vacation three years ago in February!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017


A University of Missouri study has found that an increase in SNAP benefits can reduce emergency room visits for hypoglycemia. The researchers compared data from the Missouri SNAP and Medicaid programs to determine the benefit of SNAP and the timing of ER claims by analyzing the link between receipt of SNAP benefits and healthcare utilization. The results showed a strong link between the size of SNAP benefits and the number of ER visits for hypoglycemia, and that an increase of $100 in SNAP benefits decreased the likelihood of ER visits by 13%.

Source: UPI, 2/1/17, SNAP Lowers ER Use

Tuesday, February 7, 2017


In 2014, Oregon became the first state to implement a provision of the Affordable Care Act allowing doctors and hospitals to screen patients for food insecurity and connect them to SNAP enrollment, meal delivery services, vegetable prescription programs, and cooking classes, and other sources to help them obtain healthy food Today, 270 clinics  use such a screening tool throughout the state. Health care providers from Texas, Wisconsin, Michigan, Massachusetts, Vermont, Oklahoma and other states asked for guidance on how to reproduce the Oregon program. However, as Congress endeavors to dismantle ACA, the funding and incentives for the healthcare screenings along with community-wide social services to address food insecurity are in jeopardy.

Source: Civil Eats, 1/31/17, Obamacare Repeal

Monday, February 6, 2017


An analysis of health data from almost half-a-million U.S. adults over a decade finds substantially higher death rates among people participating in SNAP. Adjusting for age and sex, participants in SNAP had around twice the mortality rate of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality, and three times higher diabetes mortality, compared to people not eligible for SNAP. The researchers, from Tufts University, noted that the study did not examine cause-and-effect and whether SNAP participation itself increases the risk of mortality. They believe it demonstrates that SNAP participants are dying at higher rates and strong efforts are needed to improve their health, emphasizing that it is plausible that if these individuals did not participate in SNAP they might have even worse health outcomes.

Source: MedicalXpress, 1/19/17, SNAP Death Rates

Friday, February 3, 2017


Spending on SNAP will continue to fall as the economy recovers and the number of SNAP participants falls, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently reported in updated spending projections. CBO’s estimate of SNAP spending over the next 10 years, based on the SNAP rules now in place, is about 7% lower than its forecast from a year ago, mainly due to lower food prices. And, as the overall economy grows,  SNAP’s share of the gross domestic product will drop under 0.3%, down from a high of 0.5% in 2015.

Source: Center for Budget & Policy Priorities, 1/27/17, SNAP Spending to Drop

Thursday, February 2, 2017


Many low-income parents find that getting a job or a wage hike can trigger a reduction in or termination of their safety net benefits, resulting in a net loss of income. This problem is known as the “cliff effect,” and it poses a problem for SNAP participants. The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston recently analyzed data from 21,781 low-income families with children under age four.  Of the total sample, 10% of the families had their SNAP benefits lowered, and 14% lost some of their benefits. While these numbers show that SNAP eligibility criteria soften the cliff effect, the effects on the affected children were significant. Compared to young children whose families consistently received SNAP, young children in households that lost their SNAP benefits were:

  • 16% more likely to be in fair or poor health,
  • 77% more likely to be at risk of developmental delays,
  • 78% more likely to be child food insecure, and
  • 68% more likely to have had to forgo needed health care because the family could not afford it.

And, young children in households whose SNAP benefit had been reduced were also more likely to be at risk for negative health and nutrition impacts when compared to young children whose families consistently received SNAP.

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, 1/17/17, SNAP Cliff

Wednesday, February 1, 2017


In response to the recent controversy over whether SNAP funds should be used to buy sugary drinks, one commentator suggests that raising SNAP benefits would promote healthier eating.  Low-income people, he argues, particularly people of color and those living in rural areas, lack access to healthy food options. Research on food availability finds that low-income communities tended to have fewer supermarkets and fewer “healthy, high quality foods in nearby stores.” Even when a lack of transportation options isn’t limiting their ability to locate better food sources, low-income people may struggle to afford healthier items. An analysis of the relationship between SNAP benefits and both food spending and food-related activities shows that a $30 boost to SNAP benefits could increase vegetable consumption by about 1.5%, increase the time spent on food shopping and preparation by 2.5 and 3.5%, respectively, and decrease fast food consumption by about 2.5%.

Source: Washington Post, 1/26/17,  Boost SNAP, Eat Better