Sunday, April 30, 2017

Climate March

Thank you to volunteers Margaret Harloe and Jennifer Whittaker who represented GardenShare at yesterday's Climate March in Potsdam.

Read more about the event here.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Farmers Market season is arriving - can you help ensure that everybody eats?

Spring is finally arriving in the North Country and we are looking forward to those fresh, tasty, and healthy vegetables and fruits grown by our local farmers.  Bet you are, too!

But we also know how many people here in the North Country struggle to put that kind of nutritious and delicious food on their tables.

And we recognize how many area farmers are also struggling to build a successful business that will support their own families and contribute to the local economy.

Our core programs at GardenShare work to tackle both of those challenges at once! 

By raising money for our Bonus Bucks program which helps lower-income and working families purchase local food, we are also strengthening sales for our local farmers.

Dulli Tengeler of Birdsfoot Farm said it best.  “Last season we had about 45 CSA members and 10 percent of our members were Bonus Bucks recipients.  This year we are looking to increase our CSA memberships to 60 to 80 shares! Bonus Bucks will make it possible for more people to join our community!”

That’s truly a win-win.

Dulli also shared this story, “One of our repeat CSA members who has really become a staple member of our community almost had to give up their share last year because of affordability.  But because of the Bonus Bucks program provided by GardenShare they were able to keep their share and we were able to keep our community together strong.”

Will you consider a donation to support this work?  You can donate here.

Thank you so much.

One father’s story…

I just wanted to say that the Farmers Market SNAP incentive program has been a godsend thus far.  Normally, I wouldn't be spending my SNAP/EBT funds at a farmers market (because most of the produce is from slightly to much more expensive than the stuff you can get at the store), but with the grants it's been an excellent resource. 

My daughter and I have greatly enjoyed the higher quality produce and local meats (heirloom strawberries and tomatoes = so much better flavor than the supermarket), as well as the fresh baked goods on offer.  The value has been excellent, the staff extremely friendly, and it's been a pleasure supporting local farmers and producers.

Thank you all, from me and my daughter, Andrea.


You can make a difference for families like Jason’s!

·         $250 helps a family of five have healthy food by paying for half of their CSA share

·         $100 doubles the buying power at the farmers market for a young mother who relies on SNAP and helps her provide fresh local produce to her children

·         $50 helps a working family who makes a little too much to receive SNAP benefits get $100 worth of farmers market produce

·         $25 helps a senior citizen double the value when they shop at the farmers market

And your gift of any amount or your commitment of volunteer time helps GardenShare reach our vision for our community…

Healthy Food s Healthy Farms s Everybody Eats

Friday, April 28, 2017


ReFED, a data-driven guide for businesses, government, funders, and nonprofits to collectively reduce food waste at scale, has launched two tools to aid businesses and governments in exploring best practices in turning the food waste problem into an opportunity for impact. Policy Finder enables users to better navigate federal, state, and municipal laws and policies on liability protection, tax incentives, animal feed, and waste bans. Additionally, the tool will help users discover recommendations for policy improvements to encourage greater food waste prevention, recovery, and recycling efforts.  The Innovator Database enables users to explore the food waste innovation sector. It categorizes innovators by solution type, organizational status, and geography. ReFED will use new data gleaned from the database to identify trends, growth areas, and gaps in food waste innovation, ultimately helping drive development of more efficient, scalable solutions.

Source: ReFed, 4/17/17, Food Waste

Thursday, April 27, 2017

April is National Gardening Month

Gardening season does start a bit later here in the North County, so we've waited until the end of the month to post something!  Here are some resources for engaging kids in gardening!

Gardening resources

Grow It, Try It, Like It! Nutrition Education Kit
Introduce preschool children to fruits and vegetables with fun activities at your child care center or child care home. Modified kit for child care homes coming this summer!

Planting the Seeds for Healthier Eating
Help kindergarten students to learn how seeds grow into plants with this lesson from Discover MyPlate.

The Great Garden Detective Adventure
Engage in a series of investigations and fun experiences to discover what fruits and vegetables are sweetest, crunchiest, and juiciest. Use this eleven-lesson curriculum for 3rd and 4th grades. Only available online.

Dig In!
Explore a world of possibilities in the garden and on your plate using ten inquiry-based lessons that engage 5th and 6th graders in growing, harvesting, tasting, and learning about fruits and vegetables.

Dig In! Poster Set
Order these six posters to display in your classroom, the school cafeteria, and throughout the school to motivate students to choose more fruits and vegetables at meals and as snacks.

Plant It, Grow It, Eat It! Healthy Habits Take Root
Get tips from the Team Nutrition Popular Events Idea Booklet on how to start a school garden. School gardens can help increase students’ awareness of where foods come from and increase their preferences for fruits and vegetables.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

An intern reflects on her experience

As our interns wrap up their semester with us, Eliza Gillilan reflects on her time with us...

Although my time was limited here at GardenShare, I came away with a deeper insight into food insecurity in the North Country and the creative programs that this great organization utilizes to try and eliminate it. Something I learned in a sociology course this semester is that poverty and hunger systemic problems and utilizing psychological reductionism, which is to blame the victim, is as useless as it is absurd in fixing the problem. Instead, programs like GardenShare are taking initiative in promoting their belief that everyone deserves access to healthy food. 

Something really important that GardenShare does to put hunger issues in perspective is Hunger 101. This is a role-playing activity that allows participants to see the challenge faced by many people to provide healthy food for their families and can help dispel some of the stereotypes and assumptions that some people harbor when it comes to hunger. In addition to this, I learned through GardenShare how many government organizations provide some sort of food benefits for eligible citizens such as Farmers' Market Nutrition Program and SNAP. As important as it is for GardenShare to spread the word about these, they go a step further to provide their own programs such as bonus bucks through the ongoing support of donors and grants that help to supplement government aid and encourage local eating. 

The fact that the programs encourage people to eat locally is equally as important to me. It is one thing to be able to afford the fruits and vegetables available in the grocery store, but local produce can sometimes come with a much steeper price tag. Helping make the farmers market accessible to everyone is a key step in helping local farmers continue their work of providing communities with the freshest food possible. This local food movement is just a byproduct of the mission of tackling hunger that GardenShare harbors, but it can also have positive impacts on the environment because the food does not have to travel as far, and helps keep money in the local economy. What GardenShare is doing is a win for everybody, the citizens of St. Lawrence County, the local economy, and the environment and I hope to see organizations that follow GardenShare’s example become a more widespread presence across the country in the future.


Monday, April 24, 2017

Economic inequality as a cause of hunger

Chronic hunger persists across the U.S. The number of food insecure Americans has risen—from 10% in 2002 to 13%.  While anti-hunger leaders have been effective at maintaining funding for SNAP and increasing the number of food banks, and federal food programs have remained intact while other anti-poverty programs have been eliminated or slashed, Andy Fisher argues that anti-hunger advocates are missing an essential point: That hunger is not an isolated problem, but the product of much larger economic inequality driven by low wages. Fisher is the author of a new book,  Big Hunger: The Unholy Alliance between Corporate America and Anti-Hunger Groups, which contends that because anti-hunger organizations are heavily reliant on corporate donations of food and money, they have often failed to hold businesses accountable for offshoring jobs, cutting benefits, exploiting workers and rural communities, and resisting wage increases.

Source: Civil Eats, 4/20/17, Solve Poverty

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Volunteers are needed to help plan 5K!

Save the date!  The third annual Fight Hunger 5K will be held on Sunday, September 17, 2017 at the Remington Trail in Canton.  

Volunteers organize the 5K and to ensure another successful event, the planning starts now!

Event overview:

The Fight Hunger 5K is a fundraising walk – run where participants secure sponsors for their participation.  Participants may then walk or run the 5K course.  An honor system timing mechanism will be provided for runners who are interested in being timed, but it is not a race.  Participants may secure sponsors via an online platform or with a paper pledge form.  Participants are asked to bring sponsorships secured via cash or check to the event.  Teams of participants from schools, churches, businesses, or other organizations are encouraged.  Prizes are given for the top fundraising individual and team.  In addition, corporate sponsors support this event.

Committee role:

Plan and organize event recruitment activities and logistics.  Maximize the fundraising value of the event by engaging business sponsors and recruiting participants who will raise money.  Work within the event budget to minimize expenses, including securing donations of needed supplies.  Coordinate with GardenShare Board of Directors and staff.

Anticipated committee meeting schedule:
  • ·         Monthly meetings April to July
  • ·         Bi-weekly meetings August to September
  • ·         One follow-up debrief meeting after the event
       If you could give some volunteer hours to this event, please get in touch - 315-261-8054 or

Friday, April 21, 2017


In July 2016, the Government Accountability Office concluded that the Department of Defense was not fully collecting or analyzing data on how many service members were in need of food assistance or enrolled in federal programs such as SNAP and WIC. The GAO ALSO found troubling signs that some military families were in need. For example, nearly 1 in 4 children at DOD schools are eligible for free meals, and about 23,000 active-duty service members rely on SNAP benefits. That number tends to draw from a particular slice of the military: lower-ranking enlisted members with children. An enlisted service member, for example, starts out earning $1,449 per month. In a family with three children, that salary could make them eligible to receive SNAP benefits. The Pentagon said it agreed with the GAO recommendations – but nearly a year later, it hasn't changed how it tracks the issue. A Pentagon spokesman declined to comment on whether specific offices cited in the GAO report have made specific changes or had changes underway in response to the report. But he added, "They have read it and they are certainly taking those recommendations into consideration."

Source: NPR, 4/19/17, Feeding Military Families

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Ag Literacy follow up

Recently, the team at GardenShare has been helping with the Ag Literacy Week at schools across the County.

It made our day today to get an envelope full of thank you letters from a second grade classroom in Ogdensburg where AmeriCorps volunteer Brianna and student intern Jamie made a presentation.

Here's a sample...


In February, Maine again asked USDA to approve its request to block state residents from using their SNAP benefits to purchase sugar-sweetened beverages and candy. The fate of that request will ultimately be up to Sonny Perdue, President Trump’s nominee for Agriculture secretary— and it’s anyone’s guess where he’ll land on the issue. Republicans tend to favor giving states more flexibility in lieu of federal mandates, but some in the party are very leery of letting Uncle Sam define what’s healthy and what’s not. Blocking Mountain Dew is one thing, but what about Gatorade? Sunny Delight? Iced tea? Some USDA watchers are quick to point out that Perdue is from Coca-Cola country and may be less likely to consider such a move, but it’s still a decision that will be closely watched.

Source: Politico, 4/13/17, SNAP Choice

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Hunger 101 at SLU

This week is Hunger Awareness at SLU and last night the Campus Kitchens students invited GardenShare to come in a present Hunger 101.

Hunger 101 is a role-playing, interactive workshop that helps participants better understand the challenges of feeding a family on a tight budget.

Some of the student's comments on their evaluation forms suggest that we achieved this goal:

  • I really thought I was pretty good at budgeting and meal planning.  But I've realized that's because I'm able to shop around and buy in bulk for the best deals.  Not everyone has that opportunity or the means to cook the food they get.
  • It's reality that people are trying to live on $1 to $6 per day and it's very difficult to get assistance.
  • I was surprised by how the system fails many people who need help.
  • I learned about the variety of resources available and how much effort it takes to plan and budget for food.
  • It was really eye-opening to see how hard it can be to put 3 meals on the table for a family with so little money.
  • I assumed that anyone who needed SNAP could get it and I learned that's not the case.


Consistent evidence demonstrates a higher risk of obesity among food-insecure women. There are a number of reasons why food-insecure people are vulnerable to obesity and poor nutrition, including: (1) limited resources to obtain adequate or healthy food; (2) lack of access to healthy, affordable foods; (3) cycles of food deprivation and overeating; and (4) high levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. In addition, food insecurity is also linked to many diet-related diseases, like diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. Some evidence shows that food insecure adults with diabetes are more likely to have poor glucose control, which could be because they don’t have enough money to use their medication as directed, so they skip doses, take less medicine, or delay filling or refilling of prescriptions. For the same reason they may postpone preventive or needed medical care or forgo the foods they need for diabetic diets.

Source: Food Research & Action Council, 4/6/17, Food Insecurity & Health

Monday, April 17, 2017


SNAP, is one of America’s most important welfare programs. It is also frequently misunderstood by both lawmakers and citizens who believe it’s rife with fraud; it’s abused by immigrants; it’s typically used to buy junk food. But many economists believe that SNAP is singularly effective. In a recent interview with the Washington Post, one of them, Craig Gunderson, who has worked in the field for 20 years, refuted most of these myths.

  • Most SNAP recipients are children, and most of those who are not young, elderly, or disabled, work.
  • SNAP participants do use their benefits to purchase soda and junk food, but one reason they may do so is that people tend to spend their SNAP dollars at the start of the month, so they buy things that are nonperishable--say bottles of soda. Then for the rest of the month they spend their cash on perishables like milk, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Selling SNAP EBT cards is an urban myth. When food stamp were paper coupons, a lot of people used to sell them. But with EBT, you can’t just sell the card--you’d also have to give the buyer your PIN number and trust they would bring the card back to you.
  • Undocumented immigrants are not eligible for SNAP benefits. However their children, if they are legal U.S. residents, have as much right to these benefits as anyone else.

Source: Washington Post, 4/4/17, Don't Know Much About Food Stamps

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Volunteers needed on Wednesday

GardenShare is looking for volunteers to join us at the office on Wednesday, April 19, any time between 9:00 and 4:00, to help get our spring newsletter in the mail.

We know it doesn't sound exciting, but with the right group of people, it can be fun.

So join us for an hour or two or all day, if you can.  We promise some treats and good conversation.  Plus you get an advance copy of the spring newsletter!

Friday, April 14, 2017


Over the past two years, an average of 67% of lower-income U.S. adults, up from 51% from 2010-2011, have worried "a great deal" about the problem of hunger and homelessness in the country, that’s up significantly (51%) in 2010-11. Concern has also increased among middle- and upper-income Americans, but they still worry far less than do lower-income Americans. Overall, 47% of Americans now worry about hunger and homelessness "a great deal," according to a March Gallup poll. Concern about hunger and homelessness now ranks as high as, or higher than, concern about most other issues Gallup tested in its annual survey.

Source: Gallup, 3/30/17, Hunger Worries

Thursday, April 13, 2017


Growing up in a hungry household in the first couple of years of life can hurt how well a child performs in school years later, according to a new study. The new study suggests that such early experience of hunger in the family is likely to make those children less ready for kindergarten than their classmates who came from homes with enough to eat. It shows that kids who experienced food insecurity in their first five years of life are more likely to be lagging behind in social, emotional and to some degree, cognitive skills when they begin kindergarten. The study’s authors found that the younger the children were when the family struggled with hunger, the stronger the effect on their performance once they started school.

Source: NPR, 3/23/17, Early Hunger

Wednesday, April 12, 2017


Women in the U.S. disproportionately experience hunger and poverty compared to American men. Strengthening federal nutrition programs, closing the wage gap, and supporting paid leave policies are three ways policymakers can reduce food insecurity among women. About 10 million households with children in the U.S. are headed by a single mother, and 28.2% of these families live below the poverty line, compared to 14.9% of single fathers. According to USDA’s most recent report, single-parent, female-headed households are also significantly more likely to be food-insecure than single-parent, male-headed households (30.3 to 22.4%).

Source: Food Research & Action Council, 4/1/17, Gender Equity

Monday, April 10, 2017

"Over the Edge" to raise money for United Way

United Way's Over the Edge event in September was a huge success, so much so that they are doing it again on June 16-17! This year will be up on the roof of the Watertown Housing Authority’s 155-foot-high Midtown Towers, and we’re looking for people to join us for the amazing ride. Registration fee is $25 and participants raise a minimum of $1,000 for the privilege of rappelling down the building.

This event will allow 90 people to test their courage while raising money for the nonprofit partners of the United Way that provide prevention, intervention & crisis care across Northern New York. Participants can sign up by either calling the United Way office at 315-788-5631 or registering online,

Please see Over the Edge video. We hope you will be interested in registering to do this Tower of Terror!!!  Please share with all your co-workers and friends and let’s make this another huge success.

Saturday, April 8, 2017


More than 10 million Americans age 50 and older are at risk of hunger every day. The AARP Foundation has designated as April Senior Hunger Awareness Month as a way to highlight the issues of food insecurity and hunger among seniors. It has created  educational resources like "30 Hunger Action Items" to encourage people to take simple steps to help combat hunger in their communities. Denny's is showing its support via an in-store donation drive. For all AARP members who dine at participating Denny's restaurants and show their membership card during April, Denny's will donate 25 cents to AARP Foundation (up to $250,000).

Source: PRNewswire, 4/5/17, Senior Hunger Awareness Month

Friday, April 7, 2017

Ag Literacy - Grapes!

Last week was Ag Literacy Week in New York State.  GardenShare staff and volunteers partnered with Cornell Cooperative Extension to get into elementary school classrooms to read and do activities with the students.

This year's activities were sponsored by Welch's and focused on grapes.  Welch's produces grape juice in western New York and donated copies of the book, "The Grapes Grow Sweet" to every school.

In Canton, I helped in a fourth grade classroom, where thanks to one of our great volunteers, we had a whole lesson plan around grapes including interesting facts and even vocabulary words.  Did you know that New York is the third largest producer of grapes in the US?  California is first and Washington second.

We had the students sample three kinds of grapes - purple, red, and green and then vote for their favorite.  In this classroom it was a tie between red and green.  They also got to try raisins and frozen grapes.

I found these fourth-graders attentive and engaged and was impressed with their geography knowledge as we discussed where grapes are grown.

Americorps volunteer Brianna Blackburn and student intern Jamie Oriol went to Clfiton Fine schools into Jessica Schreppel's first grade classroom of 8 enthusiastic students and Tammy Perault's second grade class of 13 students.

"The students of both Mrs. Perault's and Schreppel's classes loved the story of Julian and his first grape harvest," Brianna reported.  "The highlight of my experience were the students reaction to how many billions of pounds of grapes our country consumes, and of course, the grape juice tasting and the students trying to creatively describe the difference between juices. The Concord grape juice was by far the favorite of the two!" 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Senator Ritchie at Maple Weekend

WADDINGTON, N.Y. — State Senator Patty Ritchie recently took part in “Maple Weekend” by visiting Sweeter Creations Sugar House in Waddington.
During annual Maple Weekends, maple syrup producers across the state open their operations to the public, offering everything from tours to pancake breakfasts.  At Sweeter Creations Sugar House, Senator Ritchie was able to see how sap is turned into maple syrup.
New York State is second behind Vermont in maple production with 1,500 producers and more than 2.5 million taps. The Empire State has the greatest number of tappable maple trees in the United States, at 300,000 million, producing over 700,000 gallons of maple syrup each year.  In 2015, New York maple production had reached its highest level in 70 years, according to the USDA.
—The Office of NY State Senator Ritchie

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Why do our helpers live in poverty?

At this past Friday's poverty forum, Steve Knight, CEO of United Helpers, told us that his organization serves over 1,800 people per day and about 70% of them live in poverty.

He went on to say that United Helpers and its subsidiary, Sparx, employ 1,000 people and he estimates that half of them are also poor.

I have always hated the idea that, as an employer, I might be paying people less than a living wage.  I'm sure Steve hates that, too!

This sad fact raises a question of values.  We often pay the people who care for our most vulnerable community members - children and seniors - so little that they cannot adequately support their own families.

Why do we place so little value on this kind of important work that makes our families and communities stronger?

How do we change that?  How do we change public opinion, government officials minds, and donors and funders perspectives to understand that if we want to do the good work of our nonprofit organizations, we need to pay people to do the work.  And they need to be able to support their own families.

I don't have an answer, but I know we will never find an answer if we don't begin the conversation!


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Some thoughts on poverty in St. Lawrence County

This past Friday, a group convened in Canton to start a discussion about the issues surrounding poverty in St. Lawrence County and what we can do to better address it.

Chris Rediehs, the Commissioner of Social Services for the County, was one of the speakers and laid out some worrisome statistics:

  • Over 2,000 County residents are supported by the Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF, what some people might call "welfare")
  • In addition to those residents, nearly 14,000 additional residents are enrolled in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)
  • 9,500 households rely on heating assistance to stay warm in the winter
  • These programs bring $240 million annually into St. Lawrence County, meaning we have a disproportionate reliance on funds from outside our own region.

Commissioner Rediehs noted that poverty is about both lacking resources and finding doors to opportunity closed, so that giving people food is not going to solve the problem.  He also has seen that poverty is not usually a permanent situation and that all of us may need a little help at some point in time.

He made three suggestions for how people can get involved:

  1. Events like today to illuminate the issue of poverty and its complexity.  Educate yourselves and work to educate others.
  2. Volunteering - there is no one solution, but every effort helps.  While giving out a meal of a bag of canned goods will not solve all of a household's problems, it will help them in the moment and that's important.  Consider how else to volunteer that might get beyond the hand-outs to a hand up.
  3. Don't accept that it's hopeless.  It's not and we can make progress toward solutions.