March 2023 Newsletter

February couldn’t leave without dropping a little “poor people’s fertilizer” on us and exited after dropping nearly 5 inches of snow across the state. Thankfully, that means just a little more nitrogen fixed for our soil! Hopefully March’s lion-like entrance will lead directly to a lamb-like exit with plenty of moisture and warmth for our gardens and farms. This newsletter we catch up with partner programs to see how they are winding down their winter “rest” and gearing up for the business of springtime.

Partner Program Updates

Common Ground High School

The high school spent February lifting up Black History month with explorations into culture and excellence (or the culture of excellence, if you will). Early in the month, they accepted new funding to expand their outdoor classroom and gardens to continue and elevate their work connecting students and neighbors to the natural world. Shortly thereafter, reporters from the New Haven Independent stopped in to interview students whose projects were funded through the Voice4Change initiative, bringing job training opportunities like google certifications and nursing classes at the local community college, as well as “peace corners” for students to ease their stress without leaving classrooms and missing out on instruction time. These projects utilize ARPA funding to get student led and elected projects up and running. Then they brought Leah Penniman of Soul Fire Farm to campus to talk with students about Black agriculture alongside other food system leaders from within the New Haven community. Finally, several events for Black History Month culminated in shared meals centering Black culinary traditions for students to encounter and enjoy with historical context, cooked by local chefs.

Ebony Horsewomen

The work after EHI’s inaugural Black Boots Award ceremony is only just beginning! Now, Patricia Kelly, EHI’s Executive Director, is spending time talking through the new Black Boots magazine, a publication intended to share the work, talents, and excellence of Black equestrians and related artisans and tradesfolk with the public. This magazine looks exquisite and is available now. Next issue of this quarterly magazine will be out in May.

Image description: a black banner is printed with golden horses walking left to right across the image. Between the horses sits a golden diamond with a white circle at the center. On the white circle is printed the Black Boots Award logo. Beneath the logo, written in gold, are the words “Black Boots Awards 2023, brought to you by Hartford Public Television” with the HPTV logo in a white rectangle to the right of the text. Gold dust is scattered across the background. /end description

GROW Windham

The GROW Windham teams have been working on their community engagement through street fairs and events. The Romantic Willimantic festival was a hit, as always, and special appearances by GW’s own Cupid made the day even more memorable. Now everyone is working on renovating their newly-expanded space so that youth needs can be centered, as they always aim to do at GW. Formerly relegated to just a couple of rooms in their building’s basement, GW offices now occupy most of the lower level! Every staff member gets an office, the kitchen is still well in use, and additional rooms are being considered for tutoring, job readiness trainings, and general safe gathering spaces for young people seeking nothing more than a place where they can *be* without having to spend money. This is what community looks like!


Youth events through GVI have been exploring new heights this month. The unruly weather was a hurdle the outdoor walk with Two Coyotes school wasn’t quite able to overcome (thanks, February!), but the nutrition event allowed for interesting conversations around the dietary paths people follow, their reasons and their results. Young people exploring such lifestyles as veganism got the chance to ask their questions in safe, supportive space and make their determinations without the burden of judgement. The majority of their attention now is on preparing for their PhotoVoice exhibits, both at the farm and in a public space intended to get the photos and the stories they tell into the spaces where decision-makers and school nutrition program staff will be able to see them and consider youth perspectives and experiences when they have to make decisions. More information on those photo walks to come as available!

Huneebee Project

An exciting year of growth and expansion is developing for HBP. Their application for Beekeepers in Residence is going to open soon, and their social media accounts are all abuzz with their attention on Black History Month. While they honor their Joy hive in Bridgeport and offer gratitude for last year’s donors who made that hive possible, they also lift their neighbors in New Haven for their storytelling, film making, and community-building power and prowess. Their big quest now is to engage with younger potential participants and build their skills to lead in a world where honeybees are honored. How do you reach younger community members to learn about their concerns and engage them with your program?

Image description: bees gather on top of a dark wooden panel, placed on top of a wooden pallet. These honeybees are described as “winter bees”, who live up to six months, unlike their summer siblings, who love only a six-week lifespan. This photo is captured, along with the description, from the Huneebee Project’s facebook page.  /end description

Institute for Community Research

Work at ICR continues as always. The report for the Active City project is nearing completion, and a new project with the Hartford Culinary Collaborative is getting under way. This project aims to map and improve understanding of the food entrepreneur ecosystem in the city of Hartford. The Youth Action Hub, ICR’s youth project investigating the housing system and experiences of unstably housed youth, continues to meet and develop a network of housing and service providers across the state, much like the Alliance connects programs across CT.

Keney Park Sustainability Project

KPSP is still quiet for the winter. Watch here for developments as they ramp up for spring!

New Britain ROOTS

Several positions are open at ROOTS, indicating their growth and dedication to ensuring that every young person in New Britain has access to fresh food and knows where that food comes from. Please take a look at their postings and see if they have anything on tap that looks like a good fit for anyone you know! Check here for currently open positions with ROOTS.

Nonprofit Accountability Group

NAG, as always, is busy, busy, busy. Their recent work with COHI (the CT Oral Health Initiative) has gained traction as they seek to ensure that everyone in Hartford has access to reliable oral health and wellness care. In addition, their efforts to encourage neighbors to render testimony at the Legislative Office Building (the LOB is a part of the Capitol complex here in Hartford) have increased information sharing around bills involving capping rent prices and increasing access to school meals for all CT students. Other efforts NAG has been sharing and participating in have built access to facilitator training for neighbors, invasive species cleanups along the Pequabuck River, and sharing open positions to increase accessibility to new jobs at decent pay.

Nourish My Soul

The NMS teens have been working to collect and analyze information from their community to better understand how they can focus their efforts to meet existing needs. Their community assessment focuses on food access on the surface, but what they are quietly and effectively doing in improving community connections and perceptions of youth in their towns. Sneaky, how those benefits of connecting keep building up, isn’t it? Another way they have fostered these connections is through their Bagel Bunch shares. Bagels from local outlets are collected and redistributed within the community at no cost. Sharing food, stories, and experiences, this is how community is built!

Image description: nine large black plastic bags are tied shut and places on top of two large folding tables in a sunny yellow room. These bags are full of bagels, still good to eat, but would have been thrown away, all from local bakeries and bagel outlets. These bagels are destined to be distributed and shared as a part of NMS’s Bagel Bunch. /end description

Solar Youth

As summer plans are being formulated, Solar Youth is quiet. Watch for updates next month!

Summer of Solutions

The SoS crew is deep in planning for their summer internship program. In addition, they have revitalized their mutual aid efforts, dedicating their work to ensure that neighbors have access to the food, diapers, winter coats, and other necessities they require to survive a winter in Hartford. Their Pink Pantry, located at the garden on Zion St., is aiming to bulk up and serve needs where they are. Other mutual aid outlets are located at Martin St with a large donation drop-off location at Woodland Dr. To support SoS’s efforts, please email

Alliance Updates

CSAPs workshops are on hold, awaiting progress from Conservation District Directors. They have been seeking presenters with similar passion about their topic to what Cynthia presented. She is a tough act to follow! As soon as they are successful in finding someone able to present on pest ID and management as a climate smart agricultural practice, we will get that workshop information out to everyone!

Interviews following the soil health workshop are wrapping up, with the last group scheduled to be interviewed next week. Once that final information collection is completed, activity plans will be assembled based on youth and staff input and shared out for thoughts before finalizing and publishing to all Alliance programs and our Conservation District partners. Thank you all for your thoughts and willingness to share them!

An exciting opportunity coming in April will be held at Wesleyan University in Middletown. Please see the Save the Date flyer below!

As mentioned in a partner update above, PhotoVoice is a meaningful and accessible method of collecting, analyzing, interpreting, and disseminating information on a topic of importance. In addition to expertise in Photovoice, ICR can offer workshops with staff at your program to develop “mental maps” or research models, highlighting the central, driving force that keeps your programs running, and outlining how the activities you take on support that central cause. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to Kathy for workshops if they might be useful to you.

Image description: on the right side of the image, a dark background features white text saying “Save the Date”. On the left, a yellow field boasts “CT Food Justice Gathering April 29, 2023, Wesleyan University, 10am-3:30 pm. Workshops: how to start a farm in CT (Chicks Ahoy), CT Food System Values (CT Food System Alliance, BLOC Organizer Training (Katal Center) & more. . . Panel Discussion connecting statewide legislative campaigns on food justice and racial justice. /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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