Connie Jenkins, director of the Canton Church & Community Program, said she and volunteers from her agency have been offering fresh vegetables to CHA residents since mid-July.
Assemblywoman Jenne visited the program's pantry on Main Street on Tuesday and helped unpack and sort vegetables for CHA residents. The assemblywoman has long been a strong proponent for food pantry programs across the North Country. She secured funding for the Food Bank of Central New York, which helps the food pantries in St. Lawrence and Jefferson counties serve even more community members in need.
Corrections Officer Mike Rogers brought in another bounty gathered from the garden program at the Ogdensburg Correctional Facility. Approximately two dozen residents filled up their bags with the fresh veggies at this week's outreach stop.
Assemblywoman Jenne said she tries to make a stop at the C & CP pantry each September in recognition of Hunger Action Month. She said the opportunity to see the new outreach program in action made her latest visit special.
"It's a fantastic way to reach out to people in our community that often times go without and don't think to ask for assistance," she said.
"The seniors that came to the event were proud long-time members of our community and were appreciative of the efforts to bring them fresh local food. It's difficult for many to get out to the pantry or farmers markets, but there is clearly a need to be creative and bring the programs directly to them," the assemblywoman noted.
"I commend Connie and her faithful volunteer, Doug Quick, for making this program happen. It not only provides great produce but it has also reached many seniors who need help all year long," Assemblywoman Jenne pointed out.
She said the gathering also provided an opportunity for camaraderie as the residents waited for the vegetables to be unpacked and sorted. She said it was obvious special relationships had been developed between the volunteers involved in the outreach program and the residents.
"It was a fun time to joke, reminisce and share recipe ideas. Sometimes it’s nice to just see a friendly face and share in a pleasant conversation. It was obvious that some real friendships were created over the weeks. That's a calling card of the North Country," Assemblywoman Jenne suggested.
St. Lawrence County currently has poverty rate of 19.2 percent, making it the seventh poorest county in New York State. More than 19,000 county residents, including one of every four children in the county, live below the poverty level.
Ms. Jenkins noted the C & CP served 427 households from the towns of Canton, Clare, Dekalb, Hermon and Russell in 2017. She said the 1,187 individuals served included families, seniors and single parents.
Ms. Jenkins said when her staff was reviewing their operations, they realized seniors were often underserved due to challenges of getting to the pantry. She said the outreach program was launched on July 17 and has proven to be very successful.
As the harvest season is coming to an end, Ms. Jenkins said she is planning to expand the outreach effort into a yearlong program.
"I think it will work," she told the seniors waiting for the vegetables to be sorted. "We're thinking next week might be the last week for this program, but we are thinking about starting a program where we could deliver items to your door a couple times a month."
Ms. Jenkins told the seniors that if they signed up to be part of the pantry program their deliveries would include vegetables, juices, cereals, pastas and bread. She said there are also occasions when the pantry is stocked with eggs and milk.
"I think it will work. If we know how many of you are interested, we could deliver a couple of times a month. I'm sorry it's so hard for you to get to us, but we can get it to you," she stressed, drawing immediate interest from some seniors in the room.
Ms. Jenkins said the summer outreach program benefitted from grants from Catholic Charities and Walmart, as well as donations from the Ogdensburg Correctional Facility garden program, North Country Grown Co-Op and Save-A-Lot.
Corrections Officer Mike Rogers has become a welcome sight for program participants, delivering and unloading bags of vegetables grown in the gardens at the Ogdensburg Correctional Facility.
The organic garden, cared for by the inmates, includes approximately 30,000 plants ranging from tomatoes, peppers and potatoes to cucumbers, zucchini, squash and eggplant.
The prison created the garden in 2009, but CO Rogers said the program has been expanded in recent years. The prison now donates approximately 25,000 pounds of vegetables each month.
CO Rogers said Prison Superintendent Larry Frank has been a strong proponent of the garden program. He said he drops off vegetables each Tuesday during the summer season at food pantries and nutrition sites in Morristown, Ogdensburg, Waddington, Massena, Norfolk, Potsdam and Canton. Approximately eight inmates care for the prison garden.
"It was good to see the partnership between the Ogdensburg Correctional Facility and this program as well as their relationship with other programs in the county. I was happy to see they started the garden up again at the prison. It provides good work the inmates and offers a way for them to give back to society. It was clear from the quality of the produce delivered that they take pride in their work. The seniors were clearly pleased with the products as well," Assemblywoman Jenne said.
IN THE PHOTO:
Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne and Canton Church & Community Program Director Connie Jenkins dump a bag of green peppers from the garden at Ogdensburg Correctional Facility to the mix of vegetables available at the agency's weekly outreach program for residents of the Canton Housing Authority buildings on Riverside Drive. Volunteers Doug and Angie Quick and Corrections Officer Mike Rogers sort veggies in the background.
Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne, Canton Church & Community Program volunteer Doug Quick and CC & P Director Connie Jenkins sort vegetables for delivery to senior citizens at the Canton Housing Authority's buildings on Riverside Drive.
Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne, Canton Church & Community Program volunteer Angie Quick and CC & P Director Connie Jenkins sort vegetables for delivery to senior citizens at the Canton Housing Authority's buildings on Riverside Drive.
Mike Rogers, a corrections officer at the Ogdensburg Correctional Facility, talked at the prison garden program with Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne.
Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne and Corrections Officer Mike Rogers prepare vegetables for the Canton Church & Community Program's outreach program at the Canton Housing Authority.