March 2022 Newsletter

The Spring Equinox is coming soon! Worms are getting ready to nourish our soil, seedlings are reaching for the sun in our homes (or greenhouses), and the birds are coming back, bit by bit. While the human world is struggling, mother nature continues with her plans, unaffected in many ways. May we all catch that rhythm.

The February monthly meeting highlighted partner programs’ needs to connect with other causes in our community. In particular, the need for the Alliance to find ways to support work on housing injustices, fighting evictions, and stopping community gentrification are key to ensuring that our neighbors have access to the foods they want and need in useful, effective ways.

As spring approaches, we have to figure out ways our work can contribute to improving access to good food for everyone, including our unstably housed friends, family, and neighbors. People deserve to eat and have stable, secure housing. How can we support these needs as a collective? A few partner program staff members have agreed to meet outside of Alliance meeting times to begin to find ways to make our work smarter, not harder. Would you join us? Reach out to to share your availability!

Program Updates

Common Ground High School

In the cool days just before the wild work of springtime, Common Ground is deeply engaged in their students’ work. March 1 was the end of the lottery drive for applicants to attend the school, and just the day before that, February 28, Yale University honored six Common Ground students for their environmental and sustainability work. On Saturday, March 6, much of the city of New Haven will celebrate the launch of fundraising efforts for the annual Rock to Rock bicycle journey, funds from which will be donated to the high school. In all, this is a very busy time for Common Ground!

Ebony Horsewomen

A new plan at Ebony Horsewomen features plans for a conference and education center at EHI grounds in Keney Park: the upcoming Mary Fields Museum and Training Space. This exciting new endeavor will house meeting, training, and education spaces as well as banquet facilities. Mary Fields, whom the center is named to honor, was the first African American Star Route US postal service mail carrier. She was born to an enslaved family and lived in Montana with the Ursuline Sisters, an order which established an “Indian boarding school” and mission. You may have heard of her as Stagecoach Mary. Her strength and tenacity, along with her dedication to serve her community, earned her more respect than most women enjoyed in her day. The new museum will focus on African American experiences, history, and impact during the period of Westward Expansion, as well as African American influence and contributions in history, economics, and society after the American Civil War. More to come as progress on the project continues.

(Image Description: Mary Field, a robust, dark skinned woman, dressed in long dress and pinafore with a hat, stands outside a white building with a bank of windows. She is shown holding a full white sack, likely of flour or some other grocery item, in her left arm, while her right hand is clasped over her abdomen. She looks at the camera, eyes narrowed against the sun. End description.)

FRESH New London

The New London crew are heading into spring with lots on their to-do lists. The home delivery of grow boxes (raised planting beds) program is open for registration again, as is the CSA program. The grow boxes program sells a limited number of home-delivered boxes (with or without soil, determined by price) and offers consultation throughout the year to maximize buyers’ success. The CSA program offers small and large shares filled with New London-grown produce at either a set rate or on a sliding scale. Limited numbers of each available through April 1. FRESH’s colorful flyers are printed in both Spanish and English to reach all of their community.

Grow Hartford

Young folks in the Grow Hartford youth program have been focused and are thriving in many ways. Their youth ambassador program participant from Farmington has made good progress on their efforts to get an Halal station in the school cafeteria, proving that cultural responsiveness to dietary needs is far from impossible in school settings. Young participants have also been facilitating community conversations around the shape, size, and effectiveness of the school to prison pipeline as they see it, talking with former incarcerated people about their experiences and sharing what they live, know, and can do to make lives better today and moving forward. In addition, the Health is Wealth stations are continuing to pop up and help meet the needs of our neighbors. Connecting with mutual aid efforts allows for not only information sharing, but also expanding the work this program is doing to meet basic needs on the ground.

GROW Windham

The partnership with Levo International is allowing Windham Youth CORE folks to expand their connections with community through setups of hydroponic stations throughout Windham. GROW Windham has been focusing on meeting community needs through this time of year next year, and is hosting season extension workshops on April 2 and 9. Part of their focus in these workshops is not only exchanging knowledge about how to grow in early spring and late fall, but also determining is a space is right for growing, what it needs, and getting those tools and materials into the hands of people trying to feed themselves from their ground. Finally, the Community Food Network has received funding from the USDA to evaluate and establish new programs to meet the food needs of Windham and New London communities. They are gathering surveys from people across their region of focus to determine what needs they can realistically meet, in partnership with folks across their town and New London. Stay tuned to learn more!

(Image description: two young people pull materials from a large plastic bag to populate a hydroponic system, lit with pink grow lights. End description.)


Green Village Initiative has been hard at work seeking specifically to preserve their farm lease. The Reservoir Community Farm was the only urban farm in the city of Bridgeport, built on land leased from the City. Recently, the GVI crew has been hard at work to mobilize their community to advocate for renewing the lease to the GVI organization so that the farm could continue to meet their community’s need for fresh, local foods. The City Hall meeting to determine the fate of this lease was on February 22. No word on how it went, yet. However, regardless of the outcome, the work continues apace. Last week, GVI hosted an event to increase access to vending at farmers markets for new businesses hosted by Chef Raquel of A Pinch of Salt (those who attended the GVI CRAFT day event will remember Chef Raquel’s fabulous presentation and ridiculously good lunch). This week, they are hosting a seed starting event with Farmer Cat. Check their website for more details.

(Image description: blue background on a flyer featuring “Seeding Workshop with Farmer Cat” in black text. An image of new seedlings poking through the soil is centered, with images of seeds in smaller frames at the bottom of the page. Light blue bubbles feature text sharing the address (135 Clarence St., Tuesday 3/8 at 5:30. Help start seeds for GVI’s programs and take home pots for your own garden! ” on the left, another sharing the text “please wear a mask and dress warm so the windows can stay open!” on the right). End description.

Huneebee Project

This organization is moving up in the world, and bringing as many young folks with them as they can manage. They have moved into new office space, and are conducting as much outreach as they can manage to recruit for their upcoming beekeeper in residence training cohort. Each beekeeper in residence takes care of a hive near their home, ensuring the health and wellness of the bees and their surroundings (it’s all connected, after all!). Beekeepers in residence are paid for their time and the expertise they gain throughout the trainings. Their young staff member, Savannah, has taken the lead on heading development and social event building for the project. Savannah also joined us for our monthly meeting this month. It was fantastic to have a young person join us, and hopefully next month she won’t be alone!

Institute for Community Research

ICR is facing some exciting times, just like the rest of the world. Our Executive Director, Peg Weeks, is stepping down in her role to spend more time with her family. In response, Dr. Jianghong Li (MD and PhD) is stepping into Dr. Weeks’ ED role, making room for Peg to act as senior scientist when she returns to ICR after some family time. This change means that many administrative elements of ICR are changing, with conversations about cooperative leadership styles, expanding community connections, and new approaches to development happening frequently. In line with those conversations, the food projects at ICR have been and continue to shift to accommodate new structures and, hopefully soon, new staff! While our Climate Smart Agriculture Practices project with area Conservation District Offices are being planned, new conversations with culinary collaboratives, urban farmers, and food entrepreneurs, as well as people focused on addressing and mitigating climate change AND fighting evictions and addressing housing injustices grow and expand. To continue to foster the interconnectedness of all our projects here, ICR is asking folks in the food projects if they would be willing and able to connect with our Youth Action Hub, a collective of young researchers delving into the problems unstably housed young people face in CT. They have already contributed to efforts to make 211 more useful to young people and now they are looking to understand how a virtual drop in center (on Discord) could help young folks find the services they need. If you are able to help on this, please reach out to Heather at In addition, housing issues have come to threaten some of our Alliance members. If you are able to join a conversation so we can explore what we can do to address this, please reach out to and we will schedule meeting times. All of our basic needs are connected, and as humans, we all deserve to have those needs met.

(Image description: a painting depicting multi-colored hands reaching up to touch a basketball. On its surface there is an image reminiscent of the North American continent {Turtle Island} in soft purple, and a white dove flies by on the right-hand side of the ball’s surface. End description.)

Keney Park Sustainability Project

KPSP is in the deepest part of their down season. Herb, the Executive Director, is taking some time to refuel. Updates from KPSP will be featured in next month’s newsletter!

New Britain ROOTS

ROOTS has hired a new garden caretaker. Robert brings a wealth of knowledge in urban agriculture, animal husbandry, beekeeping, and seed saving. Welcome, Robert!

Nonprofit Accountability Group

NAG has been running hard to keep up with community needs. Of particular interest to Alliance programs may be NAG’s Fresh and Monthly (FAM) grocery program. As it wraps up its first year, the FAM programs are currently helping nine families get groceries, and have “graduated” two families, spending just shy of $5500 to get food onto families’ tables. NAG shares more about their mutual aid efforts here.

Nourish My Soul

In an effort to break the economic choke-hold on the food system, Nourish My Soul has been focusing on healthy eating through an intuitive lens: learning to listen to our bodies’ cues and eat what it needs when it needs it, rather than what others tell us it needs at the times they prescribe it. This form of self-care is gaining popularity through “Healthy at Any Size” and other body-positivity circles. By focusing on physical needs (including water!), this approach keeps the attention on the individual, recognizing that the size and shape of one’s body is good however it presents itself!

 (Image description: a brown flyer features words in white and peach. The title, Intuitive Eating Checklist, tops the page, followed by questions to ask oneself. These questions are: when was the last time I ate? Am I eating enough calories? Did I get enough sleep/rest? Am I under stress? Did I drink enough water? Am I eating with my menstrual cycle? Am I using food to escape an uncomfortable emotion? What is it that I desire in this moment? What do I appreciate about my body? The bottom of the page features the org name, Nourish My Soul, in gray. End description.)

Solar Youth

On February 11, Solar Youth participated in a listening session for New Haven residents. The CT Against Gun Violence Education Fund and the City of New Haven sought community perspectives and experiences as they develop their plans for an Office of Gun Violence Prevention in the City. Each participating resident received a gift card to compensate them for their time. This approach helps to increase the chances that policies and other decisions made in the formation of this new office will come closer to meeting the needs of people living in New Haven, ideally. Gun violence and food access may not seem like deeply entwined concerns, but there are multiple overlapping factors between these two issues; enough that they occur in many of the same places, impacting the same people, and having similar effects on the quality of life people can enjoy. Thank you for showing up, Solar Youth!

Summer of Solutions

In this calm-before-the-planting-storm season, Summer of Solutions continues to work to get food and basic needs to their community. Throughout February, they worked to increase donations as a part of celebrating Black History Month. Hopefully they were successful!

Alliance Updates

Negotiations are *still* under way with the NRCS and Grants Management at the USDA for the funds to cover our Climate Smart Agriculture education sessions. As soon as those funds are released, we will look to open access to workshops with the Conservation Districts around CT so that each program can learn what it can to decrease their contributions to climate change and maximize their community’s resilience in the face of a changing climate. As a reminder, these funds will cover the costs of these workshops, pay each youth and staff member to participate, and covers three events for youth to engage with: the Conservation Districts’ Envirothon event, a career day event in the fall, and our Alliance Summer Gathering. As always, this summer event will bring young folks from across the state together to share their experiences working to make the food system more just and equitable.

The interest in the work you are doing out there is enormous! The State Conservationist, Thomas Morgart, is eager to meet with as many programs as possible, tour their sites, and learn more about what you are doing and how he can funnel federal funds to help.  Directors of the state’s Conservation District Offices are eager to meet and work with you all, and I have shared with them the list of concerns you are hoping to learn more about; everything from irrigation to pest and disease identification and management through the Climate Smart lens. Forward progress, in time. We are not alone!

Assessing Interest:

As you know, ICR is a research institute. We dedicate our time to learning what our neighbors want to do something about, helping them understand how to effectively gather information about that topic, and use the information they gather from their lived experiences and those of their neighbors to frame their drive toward action. You may have noticed that my language in recent meetings and these newsletters is featuring more and more reference to climate change. In a time when the news is filled with doom and legitimate gloom, when all we can do seems like so little, doing something where we are means everything. Climate change is a huge issue with millions of drivers, but growing food in our communities, localizing the food system in ways the meet our and our neighbors’ needs, is one thing we can and should do. I have learned that from you all. Now, I hope you might share your perspectives on climate change beyond growing good, local, culturally appropriate food with me. Research is one of the few ways I am able to “chop wood and carry water”, as the saying goes. I hope you will allow me to chop this wood and carry this water with you all. As progress continues on this effort, I will keep you in the loop, if you are interested.

Between food access and housing access, we are fighting injustice on crucial, massive fronts by doing what we can where we are. You all are amazing every day, even when you might feel otherwise. I hope you can find ways to be good to you today, tomorrow, and in perpetuity. Believe me, you ALL have more than earned it!

(Image description: a sunflower in a green field on a sunny day. End description)

Published by ctyouthfoodalliance

The youth contingent leading CT's quest for justice in the food systems of our state.

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