Monday, December 14, 2020

Adirondack communities: Fixing food insecurity, child care gaps

The Adirondack Explorer/Adirondack Almanack is partnering with Adirondack Foundation to shine a light on unmet needs in the region as well as highlight promising efforts to address them. This special series was inspired by the Foundation’s 2019 report “Meeting the Needs of Adirondack Communities.”  To learn more, visit

In our previous post, we gave an overview of some of the struggles working families face — finding child care and access to fresh, healthy food options. look at organizations that are working to address the problems that working families face.

Here, we’ll highlight some new ways organizations are addressing the needs of working families. 

For example, Saranac Lake has had success in providing before- and after-school child care through a  partnership with the Plattsburgh/Malone YMCA. Part of the community schools’ model, it is a  “Y” without walls, meaning that the school provides the physical space and the Y offers a  variety of services including child care and other programming. Saranac Lake also now has a  community school liaison who is helping to bridge some of the gaps between families in the  district’s very large geographical area and available services.

The YMCA and wellness center in  Chestertown are another example of a community-based approach designed to help working  families access services and overcome some of the stigmas associated with counseling and  treatment. Grants supporting programs like the Child Care Pilot Project, though relatively  modest, can make a big difference in the lives of area residents. It’s about creating the support  networks necessary for families and communities to thrive. 

Here are a few other examples that are working to address child care and food insecurity/food access:

Child care

Adirondack Birth to Three Alliance 

Established by Adirondack  Foundation in 2014 the Birth  to Three Alliance is a network of public and  private institutions working  to enhance family health  and wellbeing across the  region. Through  collaboration and  cooperation, the alliance  has had a number of   successes, including helping  to secure a $1 million government grant to expand  home-visiting services,  creating new Early Head  Start slots, and distributing  new parent kits.

Adirondack Wellness  Connections, 211, and NY  Connects (awareness,  referrals, and resources) 

These online and telephone  referral services help to  connect Adirondack families  with the help and support  they need.

Clinton and Franklin  County Child Care pilot  project 

This was a one-time, non renewable $25,000 grant  providing child care tuition  payments for 10 families, 8  in Clinton County and 2 in  Franklin. $18,000 was  earmarked for child care tuition payments—$1,800  per family—and $7,000 for  the cost of running the  program. According to  Jamie Basiliere, Executive  Director of the Child Care Coordinating Council,  response rates were high  and additional funding  would allow more working  families to access child care.  

Community School Model

Saranac Lake School District  is currently the only district  in the region officially experimenting with the  community school model.

Using schools as hubs, community schools bring educators, families, and community partners together to offer a range of opportunities, supports, and services to children, youth as well as their families and communities. Community schools:

  •      Provide expanded learning opportunities that are motivating and engaging during the school day, after school, and in the summer; and
  • Offer essential health and social supports and services;
  •      Engage families and communities as assets in the lives of their children and youth.

Saranac Lake  has a community  liaison and began offering enrichment  programming for students and families.  Hamilton County is also in the process of establishing partnerships between local school districts and social service  agencies, suggesting that with enough support the  model can be replicated across the region. The goal is to have a trained provider  in each of the county’s four school districts. 

Food access


AdkAction’s farm store, food packages

In 2017 AdkAction, in collaboration with the  owner of the Keeseville Pharmacy, opened a farm store/coop called the Farmacy that offers fresh  foods and bulk items. This has helped to fill a void in a community that lost its only  grocery store about five  years ago. Last year, AdkAction opened a second farm store in Port Henry and  is developing a “tool kit” for  other communities looking to start their own endeavors.

When the COVID pandemic first hit the region in March, AdkAction moved quickly to offer emergency food packages to people in need. Crowdfunding and a $225,000 grant allowed the program to continue beyond its initial projections.

Currently, the farm-fresh food packages are available for anyone to purchase through the Hub on the Hill, with a deep discount given to SNAP recipients.

Well Fed Essex County  Collaborative 

Also in collaboration with the Adirondack Health Institute, Well Fed Essex is an ambitious new project seeking to improve access to  healthy local food. Efforts include stocking food  pantries and even  convenience stores with more locally grown produce and encouraging small  grocery stores to accept WIC  benefits. 

Mobile Farmers Markets

The Joint Council for Economic Opportunity of  Clinton and Franklin Counties and the North Country Healthy Heart Network work together on a mobile farmers market that provides access to healthy  local food in underserved  communities. With a grant from Adirondack Health  Institute, the program is expanding and will add two  new greenhouses for food  production. JCEO also distributes food to over 20 food pantries in the region. 

What would you add to the list? Leave a comment below!

Over the next few weeks we’ll be diving into the following topics:

  • Support for Working Families
  • Developing Support Networks for an Aging Population
  • Expanding Affordable Housing and Rental Options
  • Increasing Opportunities for Professional Skills Development  and Workforce Training
  • Creating Pathways to Post Secondary Education
  • Providing Options for Drug Addiction Treatment, Recovery, and Prevention
  • Improving Transportation Networks

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Melissa is a journalist with experience as a reporter and editor with the Burlington Free Press, Ithaca Journal and Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. She worked as a communications specialist for the Adirondack North Country Association and is currently digital editor for Adirondack Explorer, overseeing both the Explorer's website and its community forum the Adirondack Almanack. She enjoys hiking, camping and other outdoors activities, and spending time with her husband, their twin daughters, and rescue animals -- two dogs and two cats.

2 Responses

  1. Phil Fitzpatrick says:

    WONDERFUL ! Huge kudos to all the volunteers. How refreshing to have good news.

    Now, let’s see more of these kind of projects which are clearly possible. More than the Christmas spirit, it’s the spirit of the Adirondacks at work.

  2. Vanessa says:

    ADKActions COVID program has been covered in the news, and is an AWESOME example of effective mutual aid. Congrats to all involved in this and other programs. I hope they stick around for a while, because COVID and its economic effects may do so for a while longer…

    And allow me to shamelessly root for coverage re rental opportunities & affordable housing.

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