Hungry for Community
There is something inspiring about both preparing and sharing a meal with people you enjoy. At Thanksgiving after we carve the turkey, set out the cranberry sauce and test-taste the stuffing, there is a hurried scramble to find the best dark meat. Christmas calls for at least two of Grandma’s famous rolls piled onto already heaping plates. Simple summer barbeques are my favorite, with mac salad, dill pickles, hot dogs, hamburgers, potato chips, mixed vegetables and strawberry shortcake feeding the many mouths of our large family. I cannot eat a meal like those listed above without thinking about who looked like a chipmunk with stuffed cheeks at the dining room table, who whipped the mashed buttery potatoes, who burned the spicy Italian sausage or who skipped the meal altogether to swim in the lake instead. As humans, we can separate neither food from people, nor food from memory.
As part of my SLU PIC internship, I helped GardenShare both create and host a seventh annual memory at Jake’s on the Water. The event is a silent auction and dinner fundraiser, our biggest one of the year. GardenShare staff, myself included, arrived early to set up the silent auction, and slowly eighty guests trickled in to share each other’s company. In the weeks leading up to the event, I had already assembled the auction baskets, created dinner menus and other last-minute details. Clinks of glasses and twinkles of laughter filled the room as sponsors, donors, volunteers, friends and neighbors gathered in solidarity to make sure all residents in the county can have healthy and affordable food to eat.
The event raised $6000, which will go towards GardenShare’s mission of facing the issue of hunger in St. Lawrence County. GardenShare is a keystone organization, promoting both local food systems that produce the food who feed our community and programs that make buying local accessible to low-income families. The organization makes the difference between a bag of Cheetos and a bag of apples—yet, not just Wal-Mart apples, but locally grown apples from your neighbor. Too often we think low-income means lazy, drug-addicted, or other negative characteristics. Yet, I see first hand families working full-time that still struggle to make ends meet. GardenShare purposely sets our program income limits higher than the SNAP limit to reach a larger crowd of people who otherwise go unnoticed.
The hearty dinner reminded me how fortunate the North Country is to have a unique crowd of individuals who band together for a common cause. Up front on Tuesday, I witnessed how the same people I broke bread with are interdependent on the community. One man I sat with is a full-time professor, a village trustee, a hunger activist, and a husband. This was the case of many people attending the dinner as occupations and passions mingled together over six different courses. Hunger, approached locally, is a solvable issue. At GardenShare we say “Healthy food. Healthy farms. Everybody eats.” The fundraiser was a reminder of how strong and true that simple message is to the North Country community.