Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Food preservation workshops

Food Preservation Series
Extension Kitchen
Fee: $15 each or 3+ $12 each
Series of 6 workshops, each hands-on workshop features 2-3 recipes along with the instructions to make delicious and safely preserves products at home.

September 161:00-4:00pm
  • Session 3: All About Tomatoes: Sauces & More

September 303:00-5:00pm
  • Session 4: Savor the Flavor: Freezing Hot Sauces & Homemade Condiments.

October 116:30-8:00pm
  • Session 5: Let's Make Sauerkraut & Kimchi! Fun with Fermentation

November 41:00-4:00pm
  • Session 6: Demystifying the Pressure Canner

Tuesday, September 12, 2017


A new study finds that SNAP, benefits may not be enough for a healthy diet. The study, found SNAP benefits only cover 43 to 60% of what it costs to consume a diet that fulfills federal guidelines for a healthy diet. Researchers analyzed the cost to follow federal dietary guidelines based on the USDA's monthly retail price data from 2015 for fruits, vegetables, dairy, grains and proteins. The study did show that SNAP benefits were enough to cover the cost of a healthy diet for children under the age of 8 and women over the age of 51, but was not enough to cover healthy dietary needs for older children, younger women and men of any age.

Source: UPI, 9/7/17, SNAP Diet

Monday, September 11, 2017

Guest blogger: SNAP Challenge Reflections

The President of GardenShare's Board of Directors, Carol Pynchon, continues her reflections on this exercise.  Read her earlier posts here.

It’s Hunger Action Month! Consider helping GardenShare raise awareness and understanding of hunger and poverty issues this week – or any day(s) or week(s) this month – by taking the SNAP Challenge. I did it last week – shopping and eating on $4.60/person/day. Here’s a snapshot of how it went and what I learned:

  • It wasn’t terrible, I didn’t starve. I had enough to eat, but I sometimes felt like what I was eating wasn’t the healthiest and didn’t make me feel great, like cheerios for breakfast and peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch. That’s a lot of carbs!
  • Shopping on a very limited budget is challenging and nerve-wracking. Because I was buying for only one, I wanted/needed small quantities; all the “deals” and good prices were for the “family size.” And even if you were feeding a family, the large sizes really add up and take a chunk out of your budget.
  • Sugary, high-carb food tends to be cheap. I had pb&j for lunch all week (which I will admit was a treat at first). It was affordable, but monotonous and not my healthiest choice. I did avoid mac and cheese and ramen, which are really cheap and filling options.
  • Friends can help! One friend brought me peaches as a thank you and another gave me a cabbage and a couple of spaghetti squash that were surplus from a prison garden. They were amazing treats and great supplements to my diet.
  • Another boon (and one might say slight cop out!): a senior friend asked me to drive her to a doctor’s appointment. On the way home she offered to take me out to lunch. Bam! Protein – an amazing smoked chicken sandwich on hearty multigrain bread. What a treat (and nice change from pb&j!). Also, my periodic minimum-wage job – bartending at the Bucc – offers a free meal for a full shift. I don’t usually take advantage of that, but last week the juicy hamburger was much appreciated! I had anticipated taking advantage of free will meals in our community – Campus Kitchen on Monday and Methodist church on Wednesday, but these two “free meals” helped get me through.
  • I had read suggestions on SNAP Challenge and low-budget meals (Good and Cheap is a great resource no matter your budget). In the end, I was sorry I had followed some of their advice though; I could have done without pasta, bread, cereal and relied on more vegetables and fruit.
  • I’ve never been more convinced of the value of GardenShare’s Bonus Bucks program and SNAP/EBT options at farmers markets. The food from my CSA (for which I could receive a subsidy if I were a SNAP recipient, and even if I wasn’t but needed some help) carried me through the week. Tomatoes, squash, greens, eggplant all made for delicious, healthy, and still affordable meals.  
  • I only grow tomatoes and some herbs, but this time of year you could live off a small garden, even a few things grown in pots would add substantially – and healthfully – to any meal plan. Local bounty is plentiful and nutritious, everyone should have that option.
  • When I described my challenge to my son, who lives in a co-op with eight others in Seattle, he reminded me that their meal budget is $3.25/person/day (in Seattle!). That just shows what you can do if you have the benefit of bulk buying, if you can muster enough money up front – on your own or combined among roommates – and have enough mouths to feed or space to store it so it doesn’t go bad. A small garden and an army of eager gardeners doesn’t hurt!

All in all, taking the SNAP Challenge accomplished its goal. I felt first hand the strains of shopping and eating on a very limited budget. As a mother, I couldn’t help think how much more difficult it would have been if I’d been managing a job, three young children, and their full schedules and hungry tummies. I recognize more clearly the barriers to affordable and nutritious meals - and the importance of GardenShare’s work to ensure “healthy farms, healthy food, everybody eats.”

-Carol Pynchon

Friday, September 8, 2017


More than 41 million Americans lived in households struggling with food insecurity in 2016, according to a new USDA report. However, the data reveal a small decline in household food insecurity in 2016 from 2015, with the rate dropping from 12.7 to 12.3%. Other key findings from the USDA report include:
  • The rates of food insecurity were substantially higher among households with children, and for black- and Hispanic-headed households. The rate worsened for black, non-Hispanic households from 2015 to 2016, while improving for Hispanic and white, non-Hispanic households.
  • Rates among households with children remain higher than rates for households without children (16.5% versus 10.5%).
  • Households in rural areas experienced considerably greater struggles with hunger compared to those in metro areas, with higher rates of overall food insecurity  (15% versus 11.8%), and higher rates of very low food security (6.6% compared to 4.6%).
  • The food insecurity rate in the South, already higher than in the West, Northeast, and Midwest, rose from 2015 to 2016, while it fell in the other three regions.  

Source: USDA, 9/6/17, Food Insecurity

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Guest blogger: SNAP Challenge Blog #2

September is Hunger Action Month and one action we are encouraging people to take is the SNAP Challenge, where you try to live on the average SNAP food budget.  President of the GardenShare Board of Directors, Carol Pynchon, is undertaking the challenge and continues her SNAP Challenge story...

SNAP Challenge Blog #2

So it’s the end of Day #3 and I have already learned and gained a lot from this exercise.

I decided – yes, I was able to choose – to do the challenge for five days. Those happened to be mostly days that my husband and daughter weren’t going to be home. So that meant less money all together, but somewhat easier planning.

For one person for five days, my budget was $23 ($4.60/person/day). The “rules” are that I start from nothing, so I had to buy everything I was going to need for those five days. We do get a CSA share, and based on calculations for that ($12/week share for just me for five days), I figured that was $4.25 of my budget. So I had $18.75 to spend on groceries.

I did a little planning, including getting out my copy of Good and Cheap, which I had gotten when the author did a Kickstarter for her cookbook of recipes you can make on a $4/day budget. Mostly looking at her shopping list gave me some tips.

And off I went. It was late, and I was coming home from Potsdam, so I stopped at WalMart, not my usual shopping choice (Aldi was closed). Pushing my big cart, and with calculator in hand, I started in the produce section. (I knew I had kale, zucchini, tomatoes, onion, and a small eggplant left from my CSA share.) I got lettuce, a cucumber, and four bananas. The bananas were priced by the pound (I couldn’t swing the organic ones), and I had to hunt for the one scale in the produce section to figure out exactly how much my four bananas would be.

I found peanut butter and jelly (luckily, the small jar of naturally sweetened fruit spread was the cheapest – not the best economy, but the cheapest), a couple cans of beans, spaghetti, a jar of pasta sauce, eggs, and milk. I held off on bread and cereal, which I could only get in a huge box that was a budget buster.

I had planned to get some chicken as a protein source. This is when things got dicey. There was a big sign that showed $1.88/pound, but that was for the big, family packs – way more than I needed and definitely more than I could afford. So I looked at the small packs of tenders and a pack of ground chicken. $4.95. $3.86. And I began to get a knot in my stomach and started to feel anxious. How was I going to fit this into my budget? I looked at the big cart with a very few things in it and felt a bit overwhelmed. I checked my list and my Good and Cheap notes. I’d have to count on the eggs and beans for protein. No chicken.

I ended up stopping at the Price Chopper to get a small box of no-name Cheerios and the cheapest loaf of wheat bread I could find. I almost had a coffee coup - a $1.98  special – but then realized they were sold out of the special. No coffee.

In the end, my total grocery bill was $17.67. Even with the cost of my CSA I was still a little under my allowance. So I could do it, with some careful planning, a couple of stops, and a few anxious moments I was within my budget. But the upshot was going to be a pretty basic, monotonous menu for the week.

At the end of the week I’ll share some reflections on this experience. It’s Hunger Action Month. Consider giving the SNAP Challenge a try as you reflect on how others manage their families’ diets and nutrition on a limited budget.

--Carol Pynchon

Monday, September 4, 2017

Guest blogger: (Over)thinking the SNAP Challenge

September is Hunger Action Month and one action we are encouraging people to take is the SNAP Challenge, where you try to live on the average SNAP food budget.  President of the GardenShare Board of Directors, Carol Pynchon, is undertaking the challenge and had these thoughts to offer as she starts this journey...

Gloria has suggested that I might be overthinking my participation in GardenShare’s SNAP Challenge, and I have to admit she’s right. And that has provided my first take-away from this effort to feed my family on the average SNAP allowance: I have time to think about the challenge and plan how I am going to manage. And I’ve been doing that. A lot! But not everyone has that opportunity.

I have been strategizing how to get the most for my food dollar and where I’ll get the best deals. I have time – and a car with gas in it – and will drive around to get the best prices. I don’t imagine that most people who find themselves requiring assistance have a lot of time to creatively think about and map out how they will feed themselves and their families for $4.60 per person per day. And they don’t get to choose when it’s most convenient – when having a strapped food budget won’t interfere with weekend plans, a birthday celebration, or a particularly full long day of work. 

So, I need to stop thinking about it and do it! We are going to take the challenge next week.  Stay tuned for further reports and consider taking the SNAP Challenge sometime during September, which is Hunger Action Month. Check out some suggestions from GardenShare for other ways you can take action here.

--Carol Pynchon

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Two weeks until the Fight Hunger 5K!

It's the middle of the unofficial last weekend of the summer, but. we just need to remind you that it's also only two weeks to the third annual Fight Hunger 5K...

Have you signed up yet?

Can you organize a team from your church, workplace or other group?

These last two weeks will be prime time for asking friends, family, and co-workers to join you or to make a donation to support you!

Hope to see you in two weeks!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Veggie of the month: Eggplant!

Fun facts about eggplant:
  •          Like tomatoes, eggplants are not actually vegetables they are technically berries
  •          In Italy, eggplants were once known as “mala insana” which translates to crazy apple
  •         Eggplant is rich source of dietary fibers, vitamins C, K and vitamins of the B group, and minerals such as copper, phosphorus and magnesium 
  •           In order to see if an eggplant is ripe, press the skin with your thumb, if the indentation disappears it is ready to eat!

Recipe: Eggplant Ragu

This play on the classic Italian sauce replaces meat with the nutrient rich eggplant and tastes great with pasta or polenta.

     1 pound eggplant, peeled and cut across in 1/4 -inch slices
     2 tablespoons kosher salt
     1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
     1 pound red bell peppers, cut lengthwise in 1/8-inch strips
     6 cloves garlic, sliced thin
     2 ¼ pounds plum tomatoes, diced
     Freshly ground black pepper to taste
     12 large leaves basil, shredded

Sprinkle the eggplant with 1 tablespoon salt and drain in a colander for 30 minutes. Rinse, pat dry and cut in 1/4-inch dice.
In a large skillet, heat the oil over high heat. Add the eggplant, peppers and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes. Lower the heat to medium and cover. Cook for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the tomatoes and cook, uncovered, stirring, for 5 minutes. Season with 1 tablespoon salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the basil and let sit for 5 minutes before serving with pasta or polenta.