The pleasure of eating delicious, wholesome food belongs to everyone. But not everyone has a place at the table. The following programs help make good food available to us all.
Each year the food pantries in our area distribute nearly 800,000 meals to seniors, adults, and children who need food assistance. To find a food pantry near you, click here.
Also referred to as Good Will or Free Will Dinners, community meals can be found around Saint Lawrence Country almost every day of the week. These meals are always free and open to the public. We recommend that you call ahead just to verify that the meal is being served that day before heading out. For contact information and to find a community meal near you, click here. A downloadable, printable, bulletin board-friendly listing of the Community Meals is now available here. Feel free to print it out, hang it up, and distribute it around your community.
GardenShare’s “Bonus Bucks” program spreads the benefits of Community Supported Agriculture to people living on a tight budget. The program pays a portion of the cost of a CSA membership for limited-income households. To apply, click here or call (315) 261-8054. Tax-deductible contributions to GardenShare will help sponsor a household.
The SNAP/EBT program (formerly known as food stamps) brings federal dollars into our community by assisting eligible individuals and families to purchase food, including fresh fruits and vegetables at participating farmers' markets. For a friendly and confidential conversation about your eligibility, call the New York State SNAP Hotline toll-free at 1-800-342-3009. Shoppers can use their EBT benefits for purchases at the Canton, Gouverneur, Massena, and Potsdam farmers’ markets in St. Lawrence County. For more information, click here.
Farmers' Market Nutrition Program
The Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program assists limited-income seniors, women, infants, and children by providing checks that are redeemable for fresh fruits and vegetables at participating farmers’ markets. Besides improving nutrition for these participants, the program is an important source of sales for local farmers. In St. Lawrence County, checks for seniors are distributed at senior centers by the Office for the Aging, (315) 386-4730. Checks for women, infants, and children are distributed at WIC clinics by the North Country Family Health Center, Inc. (315) 782-9903. FMNP checks are welcome at all the farmers’ markets in St. Lawrence County.
WIC Vegetables & Fruits Check Program
Until recently, participants in the WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) program could redeem their monthly checks only at food stores and pharmacies. Thanks to a new WIC Vegetables and Fruits program, moms can now use their WIC checks to buy eligible fresh produce at farmers’ markets. Purchases must be made from authorized market vendors. For more information in St. Lawrence County, contact the North Country Family Health Center, Inc. at (315) 782-9903. For more information on WIC, visit http://www.nocofamilyhealth.org/?page_id=372 To inquire about applying for WIC please visit http://www.nocofamilyhealth.org/?page_id=361
Downloadable SNAP Cook Book
Cooking skill, not budget is the key to unlocking great food. Everyone has the right to good cooking, regardless of income. The recipes in this collection are lovingly designed and paired with tantalizing photos that show the plethora of exciting and inspiring food that can be prepared for little. Download the cookbook "Good and Cheap" by Leanne Brown here.
Senior Food & Friendship Centers
Eight “Food and Friendship Centers” provide well-balanced, low-cost noon meals and home-delivered meals to county residents 60 years and older. A 24-hour reservation is requested before eating at any of the eight meal sites. To find the contact information for each meal site, location and serving times, and other services including Home Delivered Meals, click here or contact the Office for the Aging, (315) 386-4730.
The Canton Church and Community Program (315) 386-3534 takes applications each spring for garden plants and seeds; plan now to apply next year. The Local Living Venture (www.locallivingventure.org) offers workshops on growing and preparing wholesome food. The UShare Project of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Canton grows a garden in Canton and another in Potsdam to raise food for pantries and community dinners; to help, call Jan DeWaters at (315) 265-2234 or Maria Corse at (315) 379-0196. Community garden plots are available for organic gardeners each summer in Potsdam; call Chelle Lindahl at (315) 347-4223.
Summer Food for Schoolchildren
The Summer Food Service Program helps children 18 or younger get healthy meals when school is out during the summer. Call your school’s office to learn whether summer meals are available in your community.
School Meal Program
The national school meal program makes healthy breakfasts and lunches available to all students daily. Children from low- or moderate-income households qualify for free or reduced-price meals. Simply by applying for the meal program—even if your child never accepts a meal—you can help your school qualify for federal funding to purchase such things as new kitchen equipment or healthier cafeteria options. Children who qualify for free or reduced-price meals are not publicly identified in any way. See your district website or contact your school office to receive an application. For more information click here.
Over 18 million American children qualify for free or reduced price meals through the National School Lunch Program. Many of these kids eat their most hearty and nutritious meals of the week in the school cafeteria. But what happens when it's not Monday through Friday? Where are these kids getting their vital nutrition over the weekend? Many teachers have found that students arrive back at school on Monday, hungry and therefore unfocused in the classroom. For over 15 years, BackPack Programs across the country have been working to address this nutritional gap by providing children with healthy and easy-to-prepare meals to take home for over the weekend. For more information on the BackPack Program and its availability in school districts around St. Lawrence County, click here.