Tag Archives: Ashley Moran

Unsung Heroes #137

Food Rescue US is one of those no-brainer, easy-to-do, why-didn’t-I-think-of-that ideas that dramatically impacts thousands of lives.

Begun in 2011 in Norwalk, and now operating in 13 states, it addresses an enormous problem: More than 50 million Americans are hungry. Yet we waste more than 40 billion meals each year.

The solution is staggeringly simple. Volunteer drivers bring fresh food that would have been thrown away by restaurants, grocers and other food industry sources in place like Westport, to shelters, kitchens and pantries in cities like Norwalk, Bridgeport and Stamford.

An app enables restaurants and retailers with extra food to request a pick up. Volunteers in the area are immediately pinged.

Almost 1,000 food rescuers in Fairfield County pick up food from 85 donors, and deliver to 80 social service agencies.

Westport ardently supports Food Rescue US. We have dozens of drivers. Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods participate.

Now the Westport Public Schools are involved too.

Elementary teachers Stacey Fowle (Greens Farms) and Ashley Moran (Saugatuck), along with Ben Lahey, assistant director of dining for district food service provider Chartwells, worked with the Staples High, Bedford Middle and Greens Farms and Saugatuck Elementary school cafeterias. All now save unused food.

Beh Lahey of Chartwells and Amber Egervari of Staples High School help load a Food Rescue US volunteer’s car.

Every Thursday, volunteers pick up the food, and bring it to the Gillespie Center downtown. They — and Stacey, Ashley, Ben and everyone else involved in this project — are this week’s Unsung Heroes.

Food Rescue US does great work. But the need is also great.

For more information — including how to volunteer — click here.

ONE MORE COURSE: Joining this week’s Unsung Heroes is Ellen Bowen.

The longtime Westporter has a condo in Miami. A year and a half ago — recognizing the enormous number of large venues like hotels and stadiums in the area — she helped start Food Rescue US there.

South Florida embraced the concept in a big way. They’ve already rescued over 300,000 pounds of food, from places like the Fontainebleau Hotel and after events like the South Beach Wine & Food Festival.

And — oh yeah — Super Bowl LIV.

Immediately following this winter’s big game, Food Rescue US picked up 35,000 pounds of food from hotels, restaurants, markets — even the Super Bowl Experience.

Well done, Ellen!

Zero Waste Roundtable Set For Wakeman Town Farm

Reducing the amount of daily waste is a priority for many Westporters. But although we want to do the right thing, we don’t always know how.

Wakeman Town Farm does.

This Monday (January 13, 7 to 8:15 p.m.), the Cross Highway sustainability center hosts an environmental awareness event. The multi-generational roundtable will offer information on how Westport schools combat waste, how we can incorporate initiatives into our own homes, and what we can do to help government effect greater changes.

State Senator Will Haskell will moderate the discussion. Participants include Stacy Jagerson Fowle and Ashley Moran, elementary school teachers who have helped lead the district’s push toward composting and zero waste; Bedford Middle School 7th grader Samantha Henske, a student leader in the fight for climate justice, and RTM member Andrew Colabella, who helped implement Westport’s plastics ban.

Monday’s event is free, but registration is required. Click here to register.

Greens Farms Elementary School offers 3 choices for waste. To find out what your family can do, head to Wakeman Town Farm on Monday night.

Plastic Fantastic Concert

From a young age, Andrew Colabella hated plastic straws. He couldn’t understand how something that was used for just a few seconds could be so quickly tossed aside, then lie around on land or in our oceans for centuries.

He never used a straw. As much as possible, he tried to avoid all forms of plastic. He used metal forks and ate off porcelain plates. But we live in a plastic, throwaway society. The number of plastic cups used and discarded at bars floored him. He thought he was the only one who noticed.

Colabella is now an RTM member. At last he can do something about plastic that goes beyond changing his own habits.

The District 4 representative has already convinced 38 local restaurants and franchises to find biodegradable alternatives to single-uise products.

Now he’s introduced an ordinance to ban plastic straws in Westport. (There are exemptions for disabled people, who need them because other alternatives are not strong enough.) The proposal is making its way through the RTM Environment Committee.

But this is not some quixotic quest. Colabella has partnered with 4 other longtime Westporters, in what they call the Plastic Pollution Project.

Wendy Goldwyn Batteau was inspired by her first boss — the editor of Silent Spring — to co-found Sierra Club Books. She’s worked for decades as an award-winning editor/executive at major publishers, collaborating with Rolling Stone, the New Yorker, Audubon and the Ocean Alliance.

Liz Milwe — in “real life,” a choreographer and dance filmmaker — has a long history of environmental activism. Ten years ago as an RTM member, she helped Westport become the first town east of the Mississippi to ban plastic bags. She’s won awards from the US Environmental Agency and Westport’s Green Task Force.

Ashley Moran is a Saugatuck Elementary School teacher. A founding member of Nurturing Minds in Africa — a non-profit helping educate poor and at-risk girls in Tanzania — she believe that education leads to meaningful change.

Greg Naughton — a filmmaker and producer — grew up in Westport and Weston, in a family of performers. His 9-year-old son is in Moran’s class. Excited by what he learned about plastic straws, composting and the environment, the boy got his dad involved in the cause.

Naughton is also a founding member of the Sweet Remains. The indie folk-rock band has over 35 million Spotify streams.

Which is why and how the Sweet Remains are playing a benefit concert, to raise funds for the Plastic Pollution Project.

The event is Friday, January 4 (Fairfield Theatre Company, 7 p.m.). It starts with a reception in the lobby/art gallery, featuring presentations about plastic problems from P3 members, Westport students and others. The Sweet Remains and P3 founders will be on hand to chat.

It should be a “sweet” concert. And one that helps ensure — in a small but meaningful way — that plastic no longer “remains” on our land and in our seas, centuries after all the rest of us are gone.

(For tickets and more information on the concert, click here.) 

This SEGA Is Not A Game

It’s a common story in Tanzania, though one we don’t hear much about in Westport.

Getting an education is tough — particularly for girls.  The barriers are formidable.  Girls’ status in Tanzania is much lower than boys, so they start school later and drop out earlier.  Many girls pregnant at a young age.  Others are forced into child labor.   Some have been orphaned by AIDS.

An American woman named Polly Dolan spent many years as a consultant for CARE.  In Africa, she saw the urgent need for girls’ education.  In 2007, she opened an all-girls secondary school in Morogoro, Tanzania.

Her childhood friend, Ashley Moran — a 5th grader teacher at Kings Highway Elementary School, and a Westport resident — joined the board of Nurturing Minds in Africa, the new school’s sponsoring organization.

“These girls are desperate for education,” Ashley — who has seen the situation first-hand — says.

Girls who are in school don’t get pregnant as often, or as young, she adds.  And when — thanks to their education — they get jobs, the money they earn stays in Morogor.  Men often leave the community.  “It’s a cultural thing,” Ashley explains.

The school  — called SEGA (Secondary Education for Girls’ Advancement) now has 85 girls, in grades 8-12.  Most are boarders; some are day students.  The goal for 2015 is 200 girls.

SEGA students, and a teacher. It is a Tanzanian tradition for girls to wear very short hair.

There is a strict admissions process, involving tests, interviews and home visits.  Girls are desperate to get in.  One asked the police to tell her mother that they had to send her to SEGA.

Their hope and faith is founded in statistics like these:  In 2009, 96 percent of the girls in the day school program passed a country-wide standardized test.  Nationally, only 49 percent did.

But SEGA does not just teach to tests.  “It’s teaching people how to change their lives,” Ashley says.  “These girls will grow up to take care of themselves.”

By that year too, the school hopes to be self-sustaining, thanks to business help.  Operating costs this year are $160,000.  Construction costs are estimated at $250,000 a year, through 2015.

That’s real money.

Nurturing Minds does what it can to raise funds.  Local businesses chip in.

And, here in Westport, Ashley is getting Westporters involved.

At King’s Highway, she runs a club.  4th and 5th grade boys and girls volunteer to meet during their lunch period and recess.

“Kids that age are the future.  And they believe they can change the world,” Ashley says.

The youngsters learn about SEGA, and educational issues in Africa.  They raise awareness throughout Kings Highway.  This spring they helped organize a walk-a-thon that raised $1,500.  They also gather change from various classrooms — “to create change in Africa,” Ashley notes.  That brought in another $1,000.

“When we talk about this as a cause — and the impact it can have — kids here recognize how lucky they are.  They really do realize how much they have,” Ashley adds.

In mid-July, Ashley and her 3 children head to Morogoro.  They’ll spend 3 weeks there, helping out.

And the bonds between girls hungering for education in Tanzania, and a suburban town in the US with a great school system, will grow even tighter.