Farmers’ Market To The Rescue

The Bridgeport Rescue Mission feeds 40,000 people a month.  To the working poor, homeless and chemically dependent people who stream through its doors, the mission is literally a life-saver.

40,000 people need a lot of food.  Most of it is donated by area churches, community group and individuals.

One very important partner is the Westport Farmers’ Market.

According to the CTbites blog, Farmers’ Market manager Lori Cochran Dougall searched for a long time for a Fairfield County shelter that would accept vendors’ unsold produce at the end of the day.  But issues ranging from potential food spoilage to funding restrictions prevented her from helping.

Chef Paul Byron. (Photo courtesy of

Finally, someone referred her to chef Paul Byron of the Bridgeport Rescue Mission.  He immediately sent a truck, with 2 residents, to Westport for a Thursday 2 p.m. pickup.

Word spread at the Farmers’ Market.  The 2 p.m. pickup is now a regular event.

The impact of Westport’s weekly donation of fresh produce is enormous.  CTbites quotes mission executive cirector Reverend Terry Wilcox:

Because we prepare and serve food  every day, spoilage is not an issue.  Chef Paul’s passion to feed the hungry allows him to take all of the food in.  He puts it all to good use.  With only 50% of kids in Bridgeport graduating from high school, better nutrition through fresh food is vital to their growing and being able to learn.

Thanks to the Westport Farmers’ Market, at 3 p.m. each Thursday — just 1 hour after the food has been picked up — fresh produce is available to anyone stopping by the mission.  It’s displayed on long dining tables; guests select as many fresh fruits and vegetables as they can fit in 1 grocery bag.

Cochran Dougall’s impact on the Bridgeport Rescue Mission extends far beyond the produce donation.  She recently helped secure a $70,000 grant from a couple in Jackson Hole.

Cochran Dougall told CTbites:

My husband and I attended a a 70th birthday celebration  in honor of our good friend, Foster Friess.  In lieu of gifts, he requested that each guest propose an organization that would benefit from a $70,000 donation.  We made our case for why the Bridgeport Mission needed these funds so desperately.  We fully expected him to choose one recipient.  Instead, he awarded each of the proposed organizations the same generous amount!

Two helpers from the Bridgeport Rescue Mission pick up produce at the Westport Farmers' Market. (Photo courtesy of

The mission returns the favor.  According to Cochran Dougall,  one Thursday the weather suddenly turned wildly windy and rainy.  Two men who make regular pickup runs stayed with her until all of the vendors’ tents were dismantled.

They didn’t want her to be alone.

Thanks to Cochran Dougall and the Westport Farmers’ Market, thousands of men, women and children in Bridgeport are not alone — and hungry — either.

(The Westport Farmers’ Market runs every Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., through November 18.  It’s located at the Imperial Avenue parking lot, near the Westport Woman’s Club.)

9 responses to “Farmers’ Market To The Rescue

  1. Dan:

    wonderful news re the leftover produce going to Bpt. Rescue Mission. Could you publish Bpt. Rescue Mission’s address so we can mail a contribution to the organization?


  2. now that is an absolutely perfect model of why & how investment in another community should be executed; it’s an immediate & long-term win for everyone in both towns. i hope ‘the partnership’ runs as is for as long as possible/necessary. now i’m definitely going to make a point of shopping this farmer’s market as much as possible (i’ve never been to it).

  3. I’m glad to know that the town of Westport is not all self-centered. Charity is still alive and thriving.

  4. The Dude Abides

    Another fine example of the compassionate hearts of the people of Westport. On a sidenote, I just read that almost 25% of supermarket
    produce is thrown out due to spoilage and a recent visit to the “Fresh Market” brought this home when a roasted chicken, which was rejected at the checkout counter for an unknown reason, was dumped by the meat department. When asked why, the employee said that it was standard policy to throw out food that had been handled (and not purchased) by customers. Seemed like a such waste. Perhaps the supermarkets could donate this food rather than dump it????? Kudos to the Bridgeport Rescue Mission.

  5. Thanks to those vendors at Westport Farmer’s Market on Thursday for reaching out and helping those in need, there are exponential benefits to those on the receiving end. With dignity, recipients will be able to bring food that they have chosen home to prepare and feed their families. It is a win-win situation for all!

    Regarding discards, CT Health Dept rules do not allow for prepared food, that has already been out to the public to be recycled to the homeless. Yes, it seems like a waste of food, but would you want a cooked chicken that has been at room temperature for an unknown amount of time to be fed to your family?

  6. food that isn’t fit for consumption by the rest of us because it has been ‘handled’ isn’t then fit for the Bridgeport Rescue Mission.
    back to the Farmer’s Market’s actions, which -again- are perfect, i.e., they are giving their surplus (not their rejects, hand me downs, etc.) .

  7. The Dude Abides

    I believe my point on “discards” was misinterpreted. I do not advocate spoiled food being directed to the Mission. However, that being said, if the grocery store can somehow figure out when such food does spoil and the probability of such spoilage, then they could give the food to charity before it goes bad. Thus, they would get a tax credit and the Mission good food that would evenutally be tossed anyway. I am sure a computer model could be formulated to accomodate both needs. A win-win situation.

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