Tuesday, October 31, 2017


The fiscal 2018 budget that the Senate passed last week could make moot the $10 billion in cuts to agriculture programs that were in the House version - a move that makes passage of the next farm bill easier. Backers of SNAP had been bracing for the prospect that the House spending cuts would be squarely aimed at welfare programs including food stamps. But the Senate version does not include the $203 billion in spending reductions the House had incorporated. The House and Senate need to pass identical budgets if Republicans want to fast-track the budget and avoid hammering out differences in the two versions over weeks and weeks in conference committee. There is a lot of pressure on the House to adopt the Senate version so that lawmakers can get onto the business of tax reform.  But SNAP may still be in bull's-eye: For instance, Rep. Mark Walker - who supports the House's proposed cuts to welfare and entitlement programs - asked GOP leaders to commit to separate votes on a balanced budget amendment and other deficit-reduction legislation.

Source: Politico, 10/23/17, Senate Budget

Monday, October 30, 2017

AmeriCorps year comes to an end

It's hard to believe, but a year has come and gone since AmeriCorps VISTA Brianna Blackburn joined us.  Her last day is this Friday!  She shared these thoughts on her time with GardenShare...

"A year has come and gone, and I find my VISTA service term at GardenShare is coming to a close. I reflect back on the growth I have experienced both personally and professionally, the friends I have made in the St. Lawrence community, along with the challenges and highs that come from serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA.

"When I was first hired on at GardenShare I felt embarrassingly ill prepared for the work I was about to do. I had no idea that I was going to become an anti-hunger expert overnight. During the course of a year I not only became fully immersed in my role as an anti-hunger professional, I also became personally invested in food justice issues and the local food movement. My work as a VISTA—creating a youth education program, spreading awareness and advocacy for local food security issues, and helping strengthen the local food economy—has influenced me greatly and has made me forever passionate about local food and food justice.

"Enduring some of the hardships that come from being an AmeriCorps VISTA and living on a humbling bi-weekly stipend can really make for a challenging and growing experience. Seeing the change made in the community through my role at GardenShare has made my work as a VISTA so worthwhile. The most gratifying of all my experiences at GardenShare has been developing a youth education program built on nutrition and food justice lessons. I had the wonderful opportunity to bring my program into several local classrooms. By far the most rewarding and impactful moments during my year at GardenShare was being approached by a student after our discussion on local food systems and being thanked “for telling us about everything at a young age so we can help the future.”

"As I prepare to continue my AmeriCorps journey, this time as a VISTA Leader working on different social justice issues, I find myself looking into ways I can contribute and implement what I have learned serving at GardenShare to help build a stronger local food system in Honolulu where I will be calling home for the next year. Thank you to the wonderful team at GardenShare for this amazing experience and thank you for the warm hospitality shown to me by the St. Lawrence community. The North Country will forever hold a piece of my heart."

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Help end the stigma by telling your story

These days as many as half of all households in the United States will rely on assistance from the government at some point, just for basic necessities like food.

For most, it will be a short-term need brought about by a job loss or a health issue.  And yet, we, as a society often stigmatize these folks, who just need a little help to get over some short term challenge in their lives.

Help us end the stigma by sharing your story!  Go here to answer a few questions.  You can do it anonymously.  Let us tell your story!

Friday, October 27, 2017


Two-thirds of residential food waste in Denver, Nashville, and New York City is edible,  while 68 million more meals could be donated to people in need annually in these same cities according to a new reports from The Natural Resources Defense Council and the Rockefeller Foundation. They found that the average person tossed more than 3.5 pounds of food per week, two-thirds of which was edible. The top reason for tossing food was that it was moldy or spoiled, followed by people not wanting to eat leftovers. In all three cities, coffee, milk, apples, bread, potatoes, and pasta were in the top ten tossed edible foods and the residential sector was the top waste producer (in Nashville, residential was tied with the restaurant sector). They identified the retail grocery sector as the largest untapped potential for increasing food donations, but hotels, healthcare, universities, and schools also have strong potential.

Source: Food Tank,  10/24/17,  Food Waste

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Farm to School making a difference in Hermon Dekalb!

Here's an update from farm-to-school coordinator Renee Smith on what's happening with the program at Hermon DeKalb Central School:

"Last year we started the Farm to School program with little energy.  Most people didn't think it would work with 62.7% of our students receiving free or reduce lunches.  We started with apples, maple syrup, beef and pork sausages.  The children loved it!!  Then in September we introduced the salad bar.  We have local artisan lettuce and local salad fixings.  The first week only a handful of students even tried it.  By the second week, teachers were buying their lunches and more and more students were enjoying the salad bar.  On  October 1st we reached 92 salads (students only) in one day. Hermon Dekalb only has 400 students K-12 and the salad bar is only for grades 6-12!  We are reaching our students and they are enjoying real food! We have 15 year old boys eating from the salad bar and their plates are full.  Its because of farmers like you who are making a difference, we can offer your amazing product to our kids!"

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Call to action - Help GardenShare preserve our AmeriCorps VISTA positions

GardenShare has had a full-time AmeriCorps VISTA position for the last year.  These volunteers commit to a year of service and receive a small living stipend for this commitment.  GardenShare’s volunteers have come through Hunger Free America’s Anti-Hunger Opportunity Corps (AHOC).  AHOC absorbs most of the administrative work and costs, making it possible for a small organization like GardenShare to have one of these full-time positions.

Unfortunately, we have recently learned that this program will be discontinued late next year.  GardenShare’s current volunteer will be with us until the end of August, but there will not be funding for another position after that time.

The AHOC AmeriCorps VISTA is funded mostly by USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), with the educational awards funded by the federal Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).  Matching funds for staff time and VISTA trainings have been provided by the Walmart Foundation, and remaining matching funds coming from host sites, including GardenShare. 

Hunger Free America has raised with USDA and CNCS the possibility of them reversing their decision, but it seems unlikely that will happen without outside pressure.  Hunger Free America has issued an open invite to USDA to visit any sites in the nation at any time to see the good work being accomplished. They have also asked private funders if they can step up to fund more of this, but that’s a long shot.

What you can do to help - ask for re-consideration this decision by contacting Secretary of Agriculture Perdue, and/or your two U.S. Senators and one U.S. House Representative.  Here is the contact information:

The Honorable Sonny Perdue
US Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, DC 20250

The Honorable Chuck Schumer
100 South Clinton Street, Room 841
Syracuse, NY 13261
Phone: (315) 423-5471
Fax:  (315) 423-5185

The Honorable Kirsten Gillibrand
US Senate
PO Box 273
Lowville, NY 13367
Tel. (315) 376-6118
Fax (315) 376-6118

The Honorable Elise Stefanik
Member of Congress
88 Public Square  Suite A
Watertown, NY 13601
Phone: (315) 782-3150
Fax: (315) 782-1291

Key points to make in your communication:
  • ·         Your connection to the issue – volunteer, concerned donor, or other relationship.
  • ·         The challenges faced in rural and remote communities like St. Lawrence County.  Go here for some facts and figures.
  • ·         The difference AmeriCorps VISTA’s make to GardenShare – volunteer recruitment, farmers market promotion, SNAP outreach, and summer food for children.
  • ·         Encourage them to re-consider this decision and restore funding to AHOC or find another way to support rural and remote agencies like GardenShare.

As background, you may find it helpful to review this op-ed Joel Berg from Hunger Free America wrote on why conservatives should love AmeriCorps:

(Keep in mind that our VISTAs themselves cannot be involved in any way in any of this lobbying/persuasion, nor can anyone else do so on government-funded time.)

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

2017 Farmer/Producer Mini Grant

The Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA) is seeking proposals for grants ranging between $500-$2000 that will address gaps in the local food supply chain and infrastructure. Often schools have limited kitchen infrastructure and/or distribution needs related to sourcing local products that create hurdles when implementing Farm to School cafeteria procurement programs. We are offering grants to both local farmers and to any producer/entrepreneur interested in supplying a school participating in the Drive for 25 Farm to School Program.

Visit for a map of participating schools. Applications for Competitive Grants should include:
- Contact: A primary contact, name, e-mail, job title, business name, and phone number
- Farm(s)/Business Description: Briefly describe your farm(s)/food business and the products produced. (approx. 200 words)
- School Buyer(s): The names of the school(s) you plan to supply and description of the existing relationship
- Current Farm to School and/or Food Processing Efforts: A short narrative summary of your current efforts and interest level in the Farm to School market. This should include the kinds of products and forms (whole, peeled, frozen, etc) you supply. (approx. 200 words)
- Plan: A short narrative summary of what you plan to do and why it’s important to this market. Describe how the funding will be used to address minimal processing, delivery, and seasonality of local food. Explain the anticipated increase in local food sales to schools. (approx.. 20-100 words)
- Costs: A list of material/project costs noting mini-grant funds and any matching funds or inkind investments
- Goals: A short explanation of how this funding will help you jump start supplying schools in the Drive for 25, and how you plan to continue those efforts after this funding is used. (200- 500 words).
- Reporting: A commitment to sending ANCA a brief report of how funds were spent and any observed impacts on your Farm to School supply goals.

Applications are due no later than November 6, 2017. Applicants will be informed of our decisions no later than November 30th, 2017. Please submit your application to Josh Bakelaar,

Monday, October 23, 2017


In 1963, families near the top had six times the wealth (or, $6 for every $1) of families in the middle. By 2016, they had 12 times the wealth of families in the middle. Why has wealth inequality worsened over the past 50 years? And why, in particular, has the racial wealth gap not closed? Nine charts illustrate how income inequality, earnings gaps, homeownership rates, retirement savings, student loan debt, and lopsided asset-building subsidies have contributed to these growing wealth disparities.

Source: Urban Institute, 10/5/17, Inequality

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Help us end the stigma!

These days as many as half of all households in the United States will rely on assistance from the government at some point, just for basic necessities like food.

For most, it will be a short-term need brought about by a job loss or a health issue.  And yet, we, as a society often stigmatize these folks, who just need a little help to get over some short term challenge in their lives.

Help us end the stigma by sharing your story!  Go here to answer a few questions.  You can do it anonymously.  Let us tell your story!

Friday, October 20, 2017


In 2016, 40.6 million people, or 12.7% of the population, lived in poverty, for example, a family of four that earned less than $24,339. One-third of those living in poverty were children under the age of 18 and 11% were seniors. The remaining 56% were of working age (18 to 64). One quarter of all those living in poverty were in the labor force and an additional 3% were early retirees. An additional 12% of the total were of working-age and disabled. Another 15% of those living in poverty were working-age adults who were students or caregivers. Compared to 30 years ago, a lower percentage of seniors are living in poverty, but because baby boomers are aging the sheer number of poor seniors is greater. Over the past 30 years, a growing number of working-age people were poor (from 15.4 million in 1986 to 21.9 million in 2016). The largest group of working-age adults living in poverty were employees working less than full-time and full-year: 28%.

Source: Brookings Institution, 10/12/17, Poor in America

Thursday, October 19, 2017


A new report takes a food systems approach to recommendations for reducing the double burden of malnutrition—obesity in the presence of widespread hunger and its consequences.  A food system gathers all the elements (environment, people, inputs, processes, infrastructures, institutions, etc.) and activities that relate to the production, processing, distribution, preparation and consumption of food, and the outputs of these activities, including socio-economic and environmental outcomes. The report pays specific attention to nutrition and health outcomes of food systems. First, it emphasizes the role of diets as a key link between food systems and their health and nutrition outcomes. Second, it highlights the central role of the food environment in facilitating healthy and sustainable consumer food choices. Third, it takes into account the impacts of agriculture and food systems on sustainability in its three dimensions (economic, social and environmental).

Source: Food Politics, 10/6/17, Nutrition & Food Systems

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A SNAP Challenge that did not happen

So, I was planning to do the SNAP Challenge the week of September 17.  Instead, as some of you know, I was in the hospital at Upstate that week after having a seizure the Thursday evening before.

The SNAP Challenge, of course, is when  you try to live on the average SNAP budget of $4.60 per day for food for a few days, a week, or longer.  It can be an eye-opening exercise for anyone, including me when I did a few years ago, while I was still at Foodshare in Connecticut.

I do remember working hard to create a menu and a budget that worked for the week I was doing the Challenge.  And I remember how my two sons played into it.  The youngest, DJ, was still at home and partway through the week, he said to me, "I understand why you are doing this, but why do I have to do it?"  Hmm, I guess you're right, DJ, so he went straight for the ice cream that was in the freezer from before I started the Challenge.

I had planned my challenge to be from a Monday to the following Sunday.  Well, on Friday of the week, my older son, Alex, called me from the University of Connecticut to say that he wanted to bring a car full of his college friends to the house for dinner that very evening!  What mom is going to turn down that offer - to see her son and his friends!  So, the challenge went out the window a couple of days early and I cooked up a feast for the boys.

I did realize how lucky I was to have all of these options.  My menu/diet while on the Challenge was significantly different that usual.  Lots of carbs, lots of PB&J, and many less than healthy choices.  How glad I was to have Alex's phone call and get rid of this menu a couple of days early!

So, while I did not end up participating in this year's SNAP Challenge, I hope that I will be able to next year,  And thank you all for your good wishes during and after my recent hospitalization.  While I don't have any clear answers yet, I do have confidence in the team at Upstate and hope to know more soon.



A new documentary from chef and TV personality Anthony Bourdain wants to bring the issue of food waste into movie theaters, living rooms—and hopefully kitchens—around the country. “WASTED! The Story of Food Waste,” stars not only Bourdain, but also a whole host of chefs and food leaders, including Dan Barber, Danny Bowien, Mario Batali, Eve Turow Paul, Dr. Judith Rodin and Massimo Bottura. It debuts October 13th in theaters and on-demand from Amazon, iTunes, and Xfinity. The film follows chefs and food advocates around the world as they visit and learn about possible solutions to food waste.

Source: Civil Eats, 10/13/17, Chefs Take on Food Waste

Note:  GardenShare hopes to show this film at a gathering in February during the Canton Winterfest.  Watch more details coming out soon!  And view the trailer here!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


USDA requires school districts to have a policy for collecting school meal fees and on how to handle situations when a student who is not certified to receive free school meals  arrives in the cafeteria without cash in hand or in his or her school meals account. A recent survey of 40 of the 50 largest school districts in the country found:

  • Only 12 of the 40 school districts have a single unpaid meal policy for all students. Most have two policies: one for younger students (generally elementary schools) and one for older students (generally middle and high schools). Policies typically are more generous for elementary school students, allowing them to receive school meals, regardless of their ability to pay, or permitting them to charge additional meals on their school meals accounts.
  • 13 of the 40 districts provide meals to all students for all meals, regardless of whether they can pay; 10 do not provide any meals or grace period to secondary students who cannot pay; 17 districts place a maximum number of meals they will provide to either secondary school students or to all students with debt.

Source: Food Research & Action Council, 9/17, Unpaid School Meals

Monday, October 16, 2017

Defeated by the SNAP Challenge before it even starts

Another take on the SNAP Challenge, where people try to live on the SNAP average budget of $4.60 per person per day for their food...

"My husband and I were planning on trying the SNAP challenge, but were defeated before we started. We consider ourselves very healthy eaters. While healthy isn't always synonymous with expensive, there are certain things in our diet that make it impossible for us to live on ~$4/day each. 

"We start each day with a healthy breakfast smoothie. One ingredient is hemp protein, which costs around $30 for a package. One package lasts us more than a month, but the challenge doesn't allow us to use things that were already purchased. It makes sense, because a low-income family certainly couldn't afford a $30 investment in a food item that doesn't have any flavor if they are trying to stretch their SNAP dollars to last all month. We also add kale, bananas, blueberries, chia seeds, and almond milk in our breakfast smoothies. Those costs are adding up! 

"When I think about the fact that we also eat one Braeburn apple per person per day, I know we are over our $4/day without even dealing with lunch or dinner. Braeburn are my absolute favorite type of apple, but this challenge made me notice they are also the most expensive ones in the store at $4.99/lb! The cost of the diet we are comfortable with and live healthfully on is already so far beyond what a SNAP recipient could afford."

- A dual income, no kids household from Norfolk


The Department of Veterans Affairs will screen all veterans who visit its health-care facilities for hunger, asking them whether they've struggled to afford food in the past three months. Veterans advocates have long warned that certain groups of vets suffer extreme rates of hunger. Those include  Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, 27% of whom have struggled to put food on the table.  While multiple studies have found that, overall, veterans’ rates of both poverty and food insecurity are lower than those in the general population, there are pockets of vets who experience hunger often. People with disabilities and mental illnesses are far more likely to be food insecure. And advocates say some vets are often unwilling to seek help. An estimated 39,000 veterans were homeless in 2016, which can make it difficult to access food. Most strikingly, a 2015 paper found that veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars suffer from food insecurity at more than double the national rate of 12%.

Source: Washington Post, 10/9/17, Veterans' Hunger

Friday, October 13, 2017


More than 8 million low-income pregnant women, new mothers, infants, and children up to age 5 received WIC benefits in 2014 — including food, nutrition education, and breastfeeding support. According to a new USDA report, in 2014 WIC served an estimated 54.8% of eligible women, infants, and children, down from 59.3% in 2013.
The program benefitted 80% of eligible infants, but just 46% of eligible children ages 1 to 5.  From 2005–2014, WIC’s overall participation rate (participants compared to those eligible to receive benefits) has fluctuated within the range of 55 to 64%, reaching a high of 63.5% in 2011. Participation has been declining since 2011, reaching a low in 2014. (Later data are not available, but the total number of participants has dropped in the last three years).

Source: USDA, 9/29/17, WIC Declines

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Hunger 101 at SLU

Yesterday, I presented our Hunger 101 program for a class called "Literary Harvest" at SLU.

Since the students have been doing a lot of reading about food system and hunger issues, it was an engaged and lively group.  But despite their advance knowledge of the topics at hand, they learned a lot, as evidenced by some of the comments that came back on the evaluation forms...

  • The most important thing that I learned is that SNAP doesn't provide all that much money.  I think a big misconception is that people try to live off from SNAP, but it's not enough.
  • The most important thing I learned is how limited the options are for people to get help.
  • It was challenging and eye-opening to try to figure out how to feed two people on $3 a day!
  • I really liked how the offices (DSS, food pantry) were not consistently open.  This really shows how inconvenient it can be for people to apply for help.
  • Opened my eyes as to how hard it is for low-income people to have access to fresh, quality foods.
And, as I like to remind the students, they got to do all of this by walking around in one classroom.  Imagine how hard it could be when the services are all in different buildings, potentially in different towns.

If you are interested in a Hunger 101 presentation for your group, get in touch!


Thanks to government programs, the child poverty rate fell to a record low of 15.6% in 2016, a little more than half its 1967 level of 28.4%.  Data incorporating the Supplemental Poverty Measure (which  counts the income that the SNAP, rental subsidies, and other federal non-cash benefits and tax credits provide) show that the drop is largely attributable to safety net programs, particularly SNAP and refundable tax credits for earned income and child care. This improvement has benefited all demographic groups.  Between 1991 and 2016, SPM poverty rates among black, Hispanic, and non-Hispanic white children were all cut roughly in half.  When poverty is measured without counting safety net income, child poverty is only modestly lower than it was in the 1960s.  

Source: Center for Budget & Policy Priorities, 10/5/17, Child Poverty

Wednesday, October 11, 2017


A recent study demonstrated that access to SNAP results in fewer hospital and nursing home admissions. Researchers studied the entire population of 69,000 Maryland seniors who are on both Medicaid and Medicare (known as “dual eligibles”).  The results were remarkable.  Access to SNAP reduced a senior’s likelihood of admission into a hospital by 14% and reduced the likelihood of entrance into a nursing home by 23%.  The study also found that the more SNAP dollars seniors received for healthy food, the lower the odds they would have to spend additional days in a hospital and nursing home. And, because connecting seniors to SNAP results in lower healthcare utilization and better health, it also leads to health care savings.  The researchers estimated that connecting dual eligibles to SNAP delivers $2,100 in annual healthcare savings per senior enrolled.

Source:, 9/26/17, SNAP Benefits Seniors

Tuesday, October 10, 2017


Trump administration officials are mulling an executive order that would instruct federal agencies to review low-income assistance programs, including SNAP and WIC,  as part of an effort to make sweeping changes to the country’s welfare system. The White House has begun circulating a draft order to federal agencies for comment. The draft order calls on agencies to review existing regulations and propose new rules that conform to a set of broad welfare principles, including tighter work requirements that encourage recipients to shift back into the labor force. It also calls for streamlining or eliminating duplicative services and establishing metrics for holding agencies accountable for program performance.

Source: Politico, 10/2/17, Welfare Review

Monday, October 9, 2017


Last year, about 12.3% of American households were food insecure, down from a peak of 14.9% in 2011. But anti-hunger advocates worry that the Trump administration and Congress are poised to undo that progress. The White House and Republicans in Congress argue that SNAP costs too much (about $71 billion last year) and doesn't do enough to encourage recipients to work. The Trump administration is calling for $190 billion cuts over 10 years for SNAP. The U.S. House Budget Committee has similarly proposed at least $150 billion in SNAP cuts over 10 years, starting with fiscal year 2018. The proposals would reduce SNAP benefits spending between 21% and 27% a year.  The good news--over the summer, Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, a Republican, reportedly resisted the large cuts. And it's unclear whether centrist Republicans will back a plan that makes dramatic cuts to SNAP, which could complicate budget negotiations this fall.

Source: Governing, 9/25/17, Potential SNAP Cuts

Sunday, October 8, 2017


Starting October 1, all child and adult care centers and child care homes receiving federal funds from the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) must implement new nutrition standards that include a greater variety of vegetables and fruit, more whole grains, and less added sugar and saturated fat. The new standards also encourage breastfeeding and better align with WIC and other child nutrition programs, such as school breakfast and lunch. In 2016, CACFP provided meals to 4.3 million children and 130,000 elderly or disabled adults each day. While these numbers mean the new standards have impressive reach, the positive impact of the new standards goes beyond participating CACFP centers; at least 30 states, including Connecticut, require daycare providers to implement CACFP’s nutrition standards as part of their licensing requirements.

Source: Food Research & Action Center, 9/28/17, Day Care Nutrition

Saturday, October 7, 2017


USDA researchers recently used health, demographic, and food security information to look closely at the relationship between 10 chronic diseases in low-income working-age adults and the food security status of their households. They made two striking findings. First, they found differences in adult health across four levels of food security ranging from high to very low food security. This finding is important, because it suggests that food security status tracks closely with health. For example, the predicted probability of hypertension for low-income working-age adults living in a household experiencing very low food security was 10.5 percentage points higher than for those in high food-secure households, while in low-income households with marginal and low food-security, the predicted probability of hypertension was 3.5 and 5.4 percentage points, respectively, higher than in high food-secure households.  Second, researchers found similar differences for all of the health conditions they examined—hypertension, coronary heart disease, hepatitis, stroke, cancer, asthma, diabetes, arthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and kidney disease. In all cases, the likelihood of having the particular health condition increased as household food security worsened.

Source: USDA, 10/2/17, Food Insecurity & Chronic Disease

Friday, October 6, 2017


Several Republican senators have introduced the EMPOWERS Act (the Economic Mobility, Prosperity, and Opportunity with Waivers that Enable Reforms for States Act of 2017), which would let states waive or sharply alter key provisions of federal safety net programs that serve low-income individuals and families.  The bill would allow waivers in some 25 federally funded programs that provide over $150 billion annually in benefits and services to help low-income individuals and families. Those programs include SNAP and WIC; federal housing programs; and child welfare, job training, and child care programs, among others. States could have flexibility under EMPOWERS waivers to redirect federal funds that now provide benefits directly to families to help them meet their basic needs.  They could cut benefits such as basic food aid provided by SNAP, and shift the freed-up funds to a wide array of other services such as case management. Or they could divert funds from basic assistance for families in need to other areas of the state budget by using the funds freed up by cutting benefits to supplant existing state spending in other areas.

Source: Center for Budget & Policy Priorities, 9/28/17, Safety Net Waivers

Thursday, October 5, 2017


Low-income families receive federal financial support through more than a dozen programs, including SNAP. States administer the programs and can set eligibility requirements, which typically limit household income and the dollar value of liquid holdings such as cash, savings, and material property, like cars. Opponents of these limits argue that they discourage low-income households from saving for self-sufficiency; supporters say the strict guidelines efficiently allocate government resources. A recent issue brief examines the findings of three studies that looked at the effect of asset limits on family finances and state and program costs and obligations. Taken together, these analyses indicate that enforcing asset limits returns no clear benefits to states, as relaxing or eliminating them does not increase program enrollment or participation. However, while removing limits does not meaningfully affect households’ assets, doing so may reduce barriers to family financial well-being as measured by bank account and vehicle ownership.

Source: Pew Trusts, 9/28/17, Do Asset Limits Work?

Wednesday, October 4, 2017


The U.S. no longer claims the top spot in a global ranking of how well countries can feed their own people, as concerns about agricultural research spending and government policy trends may make the world’s top food exporter a less-certain place to get a meal. Ireland is the world’s most “food-secure” nation, improving its food affordability, availability, quality, and safety while the U.S. stagnated, according to the sixth annual Global Food Security Index. Worldwide, food security fell for the first time in 5 years, largely because of increases in the number of refugees, weather disasters, and global political instability. This year the examination added metrics based on climate and natural-resource risks. Adjusting for those factors, the U.S. fell to fourth place, with Austria and France moving ahead.

Source: Bloomberg, 9/26/17, Global Food Security

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Food Businesses: Demystifying Home Scale Versus Commercial Production

Cornell Cooperative Extension and the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce are co-sponsoring an event to assist new and existing food businesses with navigating the regulations around producing and distributing their products. This outreach presentation will be led by John Luker from New York State Agriculture and Markets. As the Assistant Director of Food Safety & Inspection, the target audience for Mr. Luker’s talk is individuals interested in producing items for sale including but not limited to canned items, baked goods or refrigerated and frozen products. The session will focus on information that allows participants to be successful and proactive in their interactions with NYS Ag & Markets. By the end of the session, attendees will have a clear understanding of the differences between 20C Food Processing Licensing and Home Processing Registration. Additional information includes explanation of which items can be produced under each of these licenses as well as the application, labeling requirements and inspection process of 20C and Home Processing. Attendees can bring their questions about Ag & Markets oversight of value-added production.

The event is October 10th from 11am-1pm at the Extension Learning Farm 2043B State Highway 68 in Canton. This event is free and open to the public and refreshments will be served. Space is limited, reserve your spot by contacting one of the organizers, Maria Flip Filippi at (315) 379-9192, ext. 229, or Jo Ann Roberts at (315) 386-4000,

This program is made possible with funding from the USDA for the Local Food Initiative. This grant allows Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County to offer technical assistance and workshops for specialty producers and food businesses in value-added production, market strategies, food safety plans and business development. A diverse range of presentations and workshops will be offered through 2018. Cornell Cooperative Extension is an employer and educator recognized for valuing AA/EEO, Protected Veterans, and Individuals with Disabilities and provides equal program and employment opportunities.


Enrollment in SNAP may be associated with lower health spending, a new study suggests. Researchers examined data on health spending for U.S. adults who were eligible for SNAP, including 1,889 people who were SNAP participants and 2,558 who were not. Overall, the study found,SNAP participation was associated with about $1,400 less in average annual health care costs for each low-income adult. There wasn’t much difference in annual health spending based on SNAP participation when researchers only accounted for two factors that can influence medical costs – age and gender. The difference was much more pronounced, however, when researchers also considered race, region, insurance, education, income, disability and other medical problems. When all of those factors were taken into account, SNAP enrollees had average annual health spending that was $1,409 less than people who didn’t participate in the program.

Source: Huffington Post, 9/26/17, Health Care Spending

Monday, October 2, 2017

Another view of the SNAP Challenge

As you may remember, GardenShare was encouraging people to try the SNAP Challenge during September - living on a SNAP budget for a few days, a week or longer.

Here is one response we received to this idea:

"Although I believe it would be a valuable experience personally and to share with the wider community, I decided not to participate in the SNAP Challenge this year.  As the person generally responsible for planning, shopping for and preparing meals for my family – myself, my partner, and two busy teenagers (one currently away at college, and the other a growing-like-a-weed and active high school student) I was concerned about the time and energy it would take to do so within the confines of the Challenge and considering my full-time paid work, volunteer and family responsibilities.  But that’s the point, isn’t it – to, at least a little bit, better understand the often overwhelming situation of trying to feed a family well on a very limited budget?

"However, I can’t stress enough the importance of the opportunity GardenShare provides to take part in this Challenge and share the experience.   At times, my family and I have received benefits such as WIC, HEAP, Medicaid, reduced-price school meals and various other forms of need-based financial aid and support.  With an income level that sometimes fell below or hovered around the poverty line - always with one or both adults in the household engaging in paid work – and at times negotiating the use of only one vehicle, the myriad of paperwork and appointments to obtain and maintain these critical benefits was often daunting and stressful.  It is so important that we offer opportunities to better understand the experiences of our neighbors so that we can work together more effectively and compassionately to combat hunger."

Did you try the SNAP Challenge?  Share your feedback here or by e-mail.


A new study that confirms that it’s harder to think when you’re hungry. The study’s authors matched up the timing of math tests in South Carolina to the dates when low-income students’ families received monthly SNAP benefits. They found that kids’ test scores dropped at times of the month when nutrition benefits had run out. Put another way, access to SNAP substantially improves students’ academic performance—but only when there are actually enough benefits for families to be able to eat. Running out of SNAP benefits isn’t an anomaly—nearly half of participating families run out before the end of the month. Many previous studies have demonstrated the long-term effects of food insecurity on children; this study shows that the effect of losing SNAP benefits is immediate.

Source: Talk Poverty, 9/25/17, Test Scores

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Another SLU student joins the GardenShare team for the semester

My name is Maya Williams and I am a senior at St. Lawrence University. As part of a “community based learning” component for a course I am taking on local food and farming, I am volunteering with GardenShare. 

For the next three months, I will explore how a local nonprofit is managing issues of hunger and access to healthy food in the North Country. I am particularly interested in community outreach and involvement in the organization, as I believe it is vital to the success of the project. 

As an Environmental Studies and Geology major, I hope to someday pursue environmental education, fostering appreciation and stewardship of the natural world. Outside of GardenShare and school, I am on the rowing team, where incredible morning sunrises on the St. Lawrence River make up for 5 am wakeups. I also love to hike, climb trees, and collect rocks (hence the geology major). 

Currently, my favorite book is Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. If you haven’t read it, you should. It will change the way you think about the role humans have on this planet in new ways. Fresh beets are my favorite vegetable, even though I refused to eat them until I was about 15.