We Share Program

The Erie City Public Library, Erie, Kansas, USA

by Julie Kent, Library Director
The images in this post feature some of the produce we have grown at our library, including lettuce/tatsoi and tomatoes. Our library is located in Neosho County, in Southeast Kansas. We are a very rural county with families who are struggling with poverty. Sixty percent of our school age children are eligible for Free and Reduced Lunches. Families especially have problems during the summer months when school is not in session with just feeding their children. We began our “We Share Program” in the spring of 2019. Our goal is to help families eat good healthy foods.

In the past two years, the Erie City Public Library has planted tomato seeds each spring that grew into bedding plants, which were then given to community members for their home gardens. We also provided onion sets, seed potatoes and garden seeds for families who may be experiencing issues with food insecurity to grow their own food. We began in 2018 with about 50 plants, that we passed out at the 1st Annual Seed and Plant swap. It was a great success and so the next year, we got seeds and planted in the spring of 2020, an additional 200 tomato plants. Then in March, the Covid 19 virus hit and we had plants to give away and we were closed. The Staff at the library kept watering and caring for those plants. Our school offered the packets on their daily morning announcements. Families came to get packets to grow their own gardens. In late April, we handed out garden packets, with tomato plants, vegetable seeds, seed potatoes and onion sets.

Our local school system started receiving boxes of food that they distributed to any one in the community who needed food help. Many of our seniors received too much food to eat so they brought extra to the library and we began offering it on our We Share Table. We used our refrigerator in the community room to store these items. We reopened in May and started getting excess produce from our community friends. Local gardeners brought us fresh corn, tomatoes, green peppers, summer squash and later butternut and acorn squash.

When the CARES/SPARKS grant money was awarded to Neosho County and grant information was posted on their website, it was decided to expand our “We Share Program.”

The State of Kansas gave out CARES/SPARKS Funding to each county to distribute as they wanted to the county. Neosho County decided to offer three different grant programs: One for households to pay utilities, and internet services, one for Companies to be reimbursed for essential workers and other costs and lastly the Response and Recovery grant that we received to help with food insecurity.

We were awarded a grant to purchase a Greenhouse for the library as part of the food insecurity relief plan. We purchased a Yoderbilt Greenhouse, Mansfield, Arkansas. Along with the greenhouse, we purchased pots, soil, mats for starting plants, fertilizer, heat and lights. As we used the refrigerator to store produce, we asked for and were awarded enough money to get a new one to use.

We asked for money to purchase seeds as well and requested donations of seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds from Mansfield Missouri and from High Mowing Seeds in Wolcott, Vermont. Our local Dollar General store donated seeds from last year and Tractor Supply, Joplin, Missouri donated seeds as well. The seed library will be self-sustaining as community members were told to replace the seeds they took by next spring.

After a freezing zap in February, when the temps were below 32 degrees for about a week, we lost all the plants that we had started. Two days before the storm hit, we had planted 400 tomato seeds and those never recovered. In March, we started again. Over the next few weeks, we planted tomatoes, along with peppers, lettuce, spinach and Tatsoi. The green house is a favorite for this small community.

On April 24, 2021, we had our 3rd Annual Plant and Seed Swap. We invited community members to bring excess plants, bulbs and sets in to share with their neighbors. We gave away 600 tomato plants for families to be used in their gardens along with the seeds in the seed library. As we handed out the plants and the seeds, we reminded gardeners that we will again have the WE SHARE Table at the library and any excess produce will be shared with their neighbors.

In May we applied for a grant from Kansas Health Foundation. We asked for funding to purchase a Charlie Cart (mobile kitchen) to use for children’s Cooking classes. We included funds to purchase cookbooks, books for kids on healthy eating and food purchases. We were awarded this grant and the cart arrived on July 12, 2021. In June, our local Wal-Mart, donated over $5000 in seeds for our seed library. We are set for next spring with enough seeds to help our local families with their gardens again.

These additions to our library, have caused our programming to really blossom. We currently have a small group of gardeners for the Green Thumb Gardening group. In September, we plan on beginning cooking classes for children and later on for adults; focusing on Cooking for One/Two for those experiencing empty nest syndrome, Instant Pot cooking, Indian vegetarian/non-vegetarian cooking, Canning and Preserving by K-State Services, and even a class for Bachelors. We have a garden next to the greenhouse and have tomatoes, beets, carrots and green peppers planted. The Green Thumb Gardening group have been tasting the produce from our garden and planting flowers for their own homes.

Lastly due to the Covid concerns, our library applied for a grant from the State of Kansas Library for an outdoor space to allow programs to continue if the virus causes shutdowns again. We are planning on a 12X24 foot portable pavilion with convertible benches for public use of WIFI when we are not open. We included audio and video equipment for possible Zoom meetings and electric heaters for cool Autumn and Spring programs.

Our We Share Program is in full swing this summer. So far, we have received yellow and zucchini squash, herbs, farm eggs and tomatoes to share. We take a picture of the produce and put it on our Facebook page to advertise the Free Food.

The mission of the Erie City Public Library is to enhance the quality of life by being effectively involved in the community. We believe that our We Share Program is one of the ways we help to enhance our community.

==

To help you get started, below is a letter template we use to thank those who donate to the We Share Program

Erie City Public Library
204 South Butler
Erie, Kansas 66733
620-244-5119

Hello

First of all, thank you for your kind donation to the library. As with most libraries in Kansas, we rely on tax revenues for our budget and this year it may be slim. But even with those issues, we have many plans for our little library. Here is a summary of things:

In the past two years, the Erie City Public Library has planted tomato seeds each spring that grew into bedding plants, which were then given to community members for their home gardens. We also provided onion sets, seed potatoes and garden seeds for families who may be experiencing issues with food insecurity to grow their own food. We began in 2018 with about 50 plants, that we passed out at the 1st Annual Seed and Plant swap. It was a great success and so the next year, we got seeds and planted in the spring of 2020, an additional 200 tomato plants. Then in March, the Covid 19 virus hit and we had plants to give away and we were closed. The Staff at the library kept watering and caring for those plants. Our school announced the packets on their daily morning announcements. Families came to get packets to grow their own gardens. In late April, we handed out garden packets, with tomato plants, vegetable seeds, seed potatoes and onion sets.

Our local school system started receiving boxes of food that they distributed to anyone in the community who needed food help. Many of our seniors received too much food to eat so they brought extra to the library and we began offering it on our We Share Table. We used our refrigerator in the community room to store these items. We reopened in May and started getting excess produce from our community friends. Local gardeners brought us fresh corn, tomatoes, green peppers, summer squash and later butternut and acorn squash.

When the CARES grant money was awarded to Neosho County and grant information was posted on their website, it was decided to expand our “We Share Program.” The Erie City Public Library applied for and was awarded a grant to purchase a Greenhouse for the library. We will purchased a Yoderbilt Greenhouse, Mansfield, Arkansas. Along with the greenhouse, there will be pots, soil, mats for starting plants, fertilizer, heat and lights. As we used the refrigerator to store produce, we asked for and awarded enough money to get a new one to use.

While shopping for seeds, we were lucky to purchase a 5-gallon bucket of 2020 seeds that had been reduced on clearance. We purchased this seed for $20 and discovered that we had a retail value of $1429.08 from Tractor Supply 1316 N Rangeline Rd, Joplin, MO 64801. We bought other items on clearance as well – to care for the plants. The gravel pad the greenhouse will sit on has been built by the EHS students and Mr. Craft from the Wood and Construction classes.

We still have much to do to get this project done but when it is, it should really help families here in Erie. We will plan on the garden packs this year and hopefully, when the pandemic is over, we will use the greenhouse for programs on gardening and growing food.

Thanks again
Julie

Learn More

Lessons learned: Take advantage of all available resources and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Community members want to share. Think about how your library can facilitate the sharing of food to help those in need.

Dream big, but start small. When things are working, do not hesitate to expand.

STAY CONNECTED TO
LET’S MOVE IN LIBRARIES!

SHARE YOUR HEALTHY LIVING AT THE LIBRARY STORY

Share your story!

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR
MONTHLY NEWSLETTER.

Subscribe

LET’S TALK