December Newsletter

Now is the time of holidays, of celebration and close ties. We in the Alliance hope that your harvest celebrations consider the mighty work you have done this year, the good your presence, effort, and heart make in this world, and the joy your life creates. May 2023 bring your goals that much closer! In this newsletter, we touch upon the end-of-year notes each partner program has struck. If you would like to contribute to our next newsletter, please send your contributions to before the last week of the month.

Partner Program Updates

Common Ground High School

This year, CGHS has focused on celebrating strengths and connections. Each new student, camper, family, or staff member brings new perspectives, skills, experiences, and personality to their programs. From workshops led by farmers from other cities to crafts focused on using what has been discarded to make something new, building those connections was central to all of what the school, camps, and workforce development programs offered this year. While CGHS staff transition out of their positions, we all eagerly await the new staff members waiting to step into their shoes and bring new insights and opportunities to the work. We all wish Disha the very best as she embarks on her new adventures!

Ebony Horsewomen

The theme at EHI this year has centered Black excellence. From the upcoming Inaugural Black Boots Awards to the groundbreaking for the Stagecoach Mary Museum, the unifying theme at this novel and important therapeutic equestrian center has been the excellence of Black America. On January 8th, the Black Boots award night gala will take place at the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts Theater. Tickets can be purchased here for $65 per general admission. While listed as a “semi-formal” event, participants are encouraged to wear their best Stetson, as an award will be presented to the finest of the evening.

Image description: a flyer featuring a brown to black ombre background with stars sparkling in front. Images of Black equestrians float above the half-way mark of the page. A golden horse statue stands just below the images. The words “Black Boots Awards” is below the horse statue in white script. In white text below, the date January 8, 2023, CREC Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts Theater, 359 Washington St., Hartford, CT 06106 is written in white text. A gold ribbon on the right hand side of the page features, in white text, the words “tickets available now! $65 general admission, $85 VIP admission” /end description

GROW Windham

This potent team’s theme this year has been growth. The connections this program enjoys, fosters, and deepens between their work and the work of their neighbors is always inspirational. This year, they stepped further into the partnership building both to address food system needs and program needs. They are leading a coalition focused on directly addressing barriers to food access in the Eastern portion of the state while simultaneously leading efforts to formulate a curriculum to build program strength by streamlining staff onboarding, offering program structure suggestions, and highlighting skills and knowledge needed to successfully scaffold youth programming with the goal of making it easier for others to start building youth leadership. They even hired one of their former participants as a new staff member for their youth program (welcome back, Malakai)! From hydroponic systems to the hoop house to the thread City Garden, GROW Windham is finding ways to get young people into the drivers seat, growing leaders at each step of the way.


The work in Bridgeport this year has been incredible. Their theme would have to be “better together”, as they have sought, successfully, to incorporate more community, more connections, and more possibilities into their program this year than ever before. Their new hives of honey bees are thriving, ready to face their first winter in the slightly more southerly location than New Haven, where they originated. This addition came to GVI through partnership with the Honey Bee Project, another partner in the Alliance. The Urban Farmer training sessions (and graduating class) featured wisdom from the I Got Next farmer collective, connecting GVI to Hartford. Their harvest festival featured so much joy and sunshine from their community that it was a pity to miss it. Even the raised beds came together with thanks to an unusual funder, Tito’s vodka! The rebuild is stunning and the farm should continue to grow for years, thanks to the newly-minted agreement with the City of Bridgeport, leasing the land to the organization for another stretch of time. Hooray!

Image description: the background shows a sunny field of marigolds in bloom. A monarch butterfly rests at the right hand side of the image. The GVI logo sits at the bottom right of the image. In an orange block, white test reads “May the sun bring you new energy by day. May the grandmother moon softly restore you by night. May the rain wash away your worries, cleanse and heal. May the breeze blow now strength. May you walk gently through the world and know its beauty all the days and evening of your life. Blessings to all.” Clan Mother Sharon Waupatukuay Piper Tribal head Leader of the Golden Hill Paugussett Tribe. /end description

Huneebee Project

As one might anticipate when talking about a honeybee-focused organization, HBP’s theme for this year would have to be “busy”. This tiny-but-mighty org has grown impressively this year, hiring two full-time positions (their executive director and a full time beekeeper), placed hives in many new locations, and expanded from New Haven into Bridgeport thanks to their partnership with GVI. Programs that built connections between youth and adult mentors, between youth and policy makers, and between youth and other youth have filled the calendar! New hives have been split and queens taken their places among the thousands of workers in each new hive, but getting new colonies established takes time. While more honey is not flowing yet, the health of the colonies is the first consideration. It take a new hive some time to establish and set enough honey to assure their survival, so HBP is biding their time, playing the long game. While the work barely lets up, patience is a requirement. We can’t wait to see what the next year brings for this impressive new partner!

Institute for Community Research

This year’s theme at ICR has definitely been “change”. We are in a new office space. We have a new executive director. We have new projects as long-running projects wind down. A lot of what people expect from ICR has changed, but our core principles have stayed the same. We focus on working with partners to identify what needs to be addressed, and then we address it together. We continue to focus on our anti-racism and anti-adultism values in each project, giving the tools we have to others, showing them how to use them, and then supporting them as they use them, but doing our best to get out of their way. Moving forward, we are aiming at improving our listening skills, engaging in difficult conversations, and finding ways that we can be of use to our partners.

Keney Park Sustainability Project

This year, KPSP did amazing work to “plant new seeds”. Even though some of their partners had ben working together with KPSP prior to the pandemic, this year they worked in new ways, with new benefits for the residents of Hartford. In collaboration with Riverfront Recapture, youth working with KPSP planted new trees to catch back up to the numbers they sought to plant prior to isolation orders kept the project on hold. Their work will help to prevent some of the impacts of summer heat and storm water runoff damage, both becoming greater risks as our climate changes. Youth worked at the KPSP mills to prepare over 3,000 square feet of lumber, decreasing land loss to tree fall in Keney Park and increasing access to local lumber for local building projects. The Urban Ecology Welness Program enjoyed its second year, offering yoga and mindfulness opportunities to Hartford residents in their historic parkland. Finally, the home gardeners program set up 350 gardeners to grow some of their own food, putting the power of nourishment back into their hands. So many seeds and so much growth!

Image description: a table is set up partially under an awning outside on a sunny day. The table is covered with boxes full of delicta, butternut, and carnival squash, curly kale and collard greens. Lauren Little stands behind the far side of the table, smiling. The Real Food Roadshow bus is in the far background. /end description

New Britain ROOTS

The New Britain ROOTS team has been hard at work, getting their hands into the earth and their minds into the game. Their theme this year has clearly been about returning power to the people. Launching community conversations with teens and elders to learn about how they experience the food system with the goal of using the data they collected to inform a statewide food policy plan was a strong move. Getting people together to talk about food, such a sensitive topic, with an eye toward shifting the power back into their hands was no east task, but they took it head-on and offered useful information. Partnering with End Hunger Connecticut! to pledge their support for the new School Meals for All campaign puts ROOTS in a strong position to address law makers and other powerful individuals about the needs, strengths, and opportunities for improvement in our food system. Bringing the food system to the Museum of American Art with a soil health workshop was the icing on the cake, even if it happened early in the year! In all, New Britain ROOTS spent this year being a study in the payoff from hard work.

Nonprofit Accountability Group

NAG has, since their inception, been a powerful force to unite and move the residents of Hartford closer to the goal of justice. While the words for their theme escape me, their mascot has obviously been the Energizer Bunny. Every time you drive past City Hall in Hartford, NAG is out there with a crowd of people demanding their human rights be respected. Their mutual aid work has fed, housed, and diapered many people, individuals, and babies this year when eviction moratoriums lapsed and people started being kicked out of their homes. Their deep community reach made them a strong entry point for political candidates seeking office, which brought more eyes to their efforts and power. Bringing young people to summer camp, paying them equitably for their time, and ensuring that their physical, social, emotional, and future needs were met, connecting teens to environmental causes and organizations, and building bridges between the various and intersectional causes we all prioritize has required an enormous amount of strength, focus, and integrity from NAG. They have risen to that challenge every time with grace.

Nourish My Soul

This year has been a homecoming year for NMS. First, they entered into an agreement with the East Granby Land Trust to tend to and maintain their new farm space, growing from raised boxes outside of the community center to a full-fledged farm! Then they opened their programing up to an entirely new crowd of home school students, preschoolers, and teens this fall, embracing the wisdom of the land and seasons, learning from the past, and engaging with the community through bagel breakfasts and jewelry making. Despite the fact that NMS has never strayed from the Granby area, this year, they sunk their roots into home and make themselves a part of the landscape they might not have realized they were missing. Welcome home, NMS!

Image Description: the sun shines on a field of greenery where the sprinkler sprays water into the air. A sign proclaims “Grant funding recipient” and shows the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving logo. The top third of the image is full of cloudless blue sky.

Solar Youth

The Solar Youth squad has been hard at work reminding their participants that good things come from diving deep. Their theme this year has focused on love, embracing community even when some in community made that hard to do. Despite some scary moments, their youth continued to engage in communicating with each other and their neighbors, identifying paths forward that will benefit New Haven when climate change makes much of what we take for granted mere memory. Summer camps featured joyous music, dancing, face painting, and laughter, with art kits heading into homes for young people across the City.

Summer of Solutions

SoS has focused their year on generosity. For an organization founded on the principle that food should be free, SoS has expanded their work to include not only food but also winter wear, school supplies, and infant formula at a time when the nation was experiencing a shortage of dramatic proportions. Now that they are in their winter hibernation, all we can do is watch to see what the Pink Pantry will feature next spring!

Alliance Updates

As the winter closes in, most farmers are dreaming of what their growing season will look like next year. We, on the other hand, have switched from agriculture back to the focus of youth leadership. Our Climate Smart Agricultural Practices workshops are slated to begin soon with a virtual session on soil health, aimed at teaching staff and young leaders the skills they need so that they can, in turn, teach those skills to their peers in Alliance programs. Weekly newsletters highlight learning opportunities. Based on Alliance program staff feedback, the next several updates will center workshops, classes, toolkits, and conferences focused on building youth confidence, learning about group dynamics, and identifying ways to collect information systematically with the goal of informing action. To sign up for these newsletters or research workshops, please reach out to .

Finally, we have been invited to share in the steps taken by New Britain ROOTS in supporting End Hunger Connecticut!’s Free School Meals for All campaign. To learn more about this new campaign, please check here. To indicate your support of this campaign, please sign up your org and share your decision with . If enough partner organizations wish to support this campaign, then it would only make sense to sign up as an Alliance! The focus aligns with our work, so our support would make good sense.

Image description: a sign proclaims “welcome child nutrition advocates! School meals for all CT Campaign kick-off. The End Hunger Connecticut! logo features prominently across the bottom of the sign. The sign stands in front of the entry to a convention room. /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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