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Food & Health Network is a program of Rural Health Network of South Central NY
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In this Issue

News from Our Team

In light of the pandemic, Rural Health Network has quickly adapted to new ways of work to ensure the safety of our staff while maintaining high quality services to our communities. With the help of Blue Storm Technologies, Armstrong Communications, and other supportive vendors, all program staff have been set up to work remotely. While some programs' primary work has shifted, others continue to fill the same needs as always. Throughout these changes, the Rural Health Network mission of advancing the health and well-being of rural people and communities has remained constant. Another constant is the collaboration and coordination between departments and with our partners and stakeholders. Not one program or one agency alone will lead us through these difficult times. Each program at RHN is working closely with other partners throughout the region to plan and implement strategies to address the variety of increasing needs and challenges. Information on how Rural Health Network programs, including the Food and Health Network, are operating during the pandemic can be found here.

At FaHN, we are working to address immediate food security needs and support food and farm businesses, while also considering how to strengthen and build long term resilience in our regional food systems and communities. We also are working to provide our communities with resources that they can use to safely secure food. Staff and AmeriCorps members have assisted in emergency food distributions for residents across our service area, both through direct volunteering with local food pantries and remotely with the Food Bank of the Southern Tier. RHN developed a Pharmacy Directory and a Healthcare Access Information resource. FaHN has worked to create a COVID-19 Resource Directory, as well as a COVID-19 Grocery Store Service Inventory. We have partnered with organizations on the development of a South Central NY Farm Directory to connect people with opportunities to buy local farm products and support local producers. Our farm to school team has even worked to provide students picking up school meals with grow kits, giving them an opportunity to witness new life sprouting from the soil amid these times. In addition, the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program (FVRx) is being adapted to offer more options for home delivery and curbside pickup.

Growing Farm to School

Check out a quote from our Farm to School Coordinator, Jess Barbini, regarding her remote work! In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of our responsibilities have shifted at the Food and Health Network. While we continue to support different pieces of our regional food system, our team has experienced multiple opportunities for brand new and growing collaborations. Our Farm to School Coordinator Jess Barbini, has been driving one of the Rural Health Network's GetThere Transportation to Employment vans to help deliver food to vulnerable households unable to get to a Food Bank of the Southern Tier's community food distribution site. Talk about collaboration! Jess appreciates the opportunity to work with kind and committed partners while offering a much-needed service.
On Wednesday, March 11th FaHN joined partners Cornell Cooperative Extension of Broome County and Broome-Tioga BOCES to host a successful Nutrition and Wellness Expo! Planned around National Nutrition Month®, the event showcased nine different stations of fun nutrition education for the students of Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School in Binghamton, NY. During the expo Catskill Cattle Company, CCE-Broome, Main Street Farms, the Healthy Lifestyles Coalition, VINES, Lourdes dietitians, Broome County Dairy Princesses, and FaHN hosted learning stations for students. Students in grades K-5 were able to rotate between the 20  minute stations. Classes had the opportunity to sign up for which activities they wanted to participate in advance for this day long event. 

Teachers and station facilitators adjusted their lesson plans for each grade level, which gave all students the chance to learn. Students loved trying out the blender bike to make fresh plant-based smoothies, sampling foods they learned about from around the world, and exploring the process of digestion. Students also engaged in composting with worms, identifying different seeds and parts of the plant, and even were able to start a couple hundred seeds in milk cartons. The seed starting activity was part of the national Carton2Garden contest where schools make planters out of upcycled milk containers to grow plants for school gardens. For several weeks before the expo took place, elementary students helped farm to school members collect, wash, and hand paint over 200 milk cartons. 

The Nutrition and Wellness Expo provided a fun and interactive opportunity for students, teachers, and community partners to engage in learning about healthy lifestyles. We look forward to growing this event in the future, and are grateful for everyone who made the day possible!
 
Check out this piece by Nicole Kaczmarczyk, Farm to School AmeriCorps member, on her remote work! My goal as a Farm to School AmeriCorps member at the Rural Health Network is to strengthen connections between schools and local food through education, taste tests, and promoting NY Thursday school meals that highlight NY products. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our work within school districts has unfortunately been put on hold. It was uncertain if the role these activities played in benefiting the students could continue, but our Farm to School team has found innovative ways to adjust and continue our support to local schools and the community. 

I have begun filling new roles to support our community such as volunteering at CHOW to help pack emergency food boxes, registering families for food distribution sites within the Food Bank of the Southern Tier, helping compile resources for community members to receive food and educating myself on the various ways communities across the nation are fighting this pandemic. In addition to this, we have been able to bring Farm to School home for students by posting recipes on our social media platforms, donating grow kits to school lunch distribution sites, and sharing other Farm to School activities and educational resources for students to enjoy from home. Everyday the COVID-19 pandemic presents us with new challenges and it has been inspiring to see partner organizations come together to provide continued support to our community in a time of uncertainty.

Utilizing Food as Medicine

Welcome, New Fruit and Vegetable Rx Program Vendors! The Food and Health Network is excited to welcome four new vendors into our Fruit and Vegetable Rx Program (FVRx) for the upcoming 2020 season! The local groceries, markets, and farm stores that accept the FVRx vouchers are integral to the success of the program. We are so pleased to be able to offer more shopping locations and access to a greater variety of fresh fruits and vegetables to our program participants this season. Coming on board with us this year are Stoughton Farm Store, Spencer ShurFine Foodmart, Old Barn Market, and Russell Farms.

We are so grateful for all of the incredible farmers' markets, farm stands, grocery stores, and farm share programs who have partnered with us over the last few years. You can find detailed information on all vendors hours and options for delivery and pre-orders here. To learn more about each new vendor, visit our Food for Thought Blog here.

Developing Community Food Systems

The Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse (CHOW) in Binghamton is still looking for volunteers to help pack emergency meal kits. If you are interested in signing up, please find more details and sign up at the form here. There are comprehensive safety guidelines in place for all our volunteers that you can view through the sign up form. If you have any questions please contact FaHN's Community Food Coordinator, Tom Lewis, at tlewis@rhnscny.org!

News from Our Network

New York State Provides Additional Details on $25 Million in Funding for Food Banks Through Nourish New York Initiative. Learn more here!

VINES in Binghamton is having an Intro to Beekeeping workshop June 6, 2020 at the Binghamton Urban Farm (16 Tudor St.) from 6:00-7:30 pm. Learn more and register here!

VINES Farm Share sign ups are open! Sign up and learn more here.

Healthy Food For All Farm Share sign ups are open! Sign up and learn more here.

Open Grant Opportunities

Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program
Application deadline: May 18, 2020. 
Learn more here.

Voices for Healthy Kids COVID-19 Rapid Response Grant Opportunity
Application deadline: May 25, 2020.
Learn more here.

Regional Food System Partnership Grant Program
Application deadline: May 26, 2020. 
Learn more here.

Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP)
Application deadline: May 26, 2020. 
Learn more here.

Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP)
Application deadline: May 26, 2020. 
Learn more here.

Community Food Projects (CFP) Competitive Grants Program
Application deadline: June 3, 2020. 
Learn more here.

Voices for Healthy Kids Policy Campaign Grant
Application deadline: June 15, 2020. Learn more here.

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