The townwide organization — which already promotes a Zero Food Waste Challenge, encouraging composting, food scrap recycling and redistribution to food insecure people — has ramped up their efforts.
They’ve partnered with Christ & Holy Trinity Church and Westport Community Garden.
The Garden’s Grow-a-Row initiative encourages Westporters to plant an extra row in their gardens, then donate a portion of their harvest to our food insecure neighbors in Bridgeport.
Westport Community Garden provides gardeners row markers to indicate a portion of their plot for donations.
There is already a collection bin at the garden, on Hyde Lane. Now everyone else can drop off produce in green bins inside Christ & Holy Trinity’s Branson Hall. It’s open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., 7 days a week.
Donated food is brought to the Center for Food Equity and Economic Development (the FEED Center). Student chefs convert the produce into delicious meals, for distribution in soup kitchens. Some of the produce also goes to the United Congregational Church in Bridgeport, for its Feel the Warmth supper.
Vito Pidalla is a graduate of Chef Raquel Rivera’s intensive culinary training program. Rivera, owner of a Pinch of Salt of Bridgeport, provides culinary training for low-income residents for food industry employment and entrepreneurial ventures.
Grow-a-Row is a collaborative effort between the Church’s Aileen Brill and the Community Garden’s Amy Unikewicz. Both organizations have a long history of providing food to the needy.
NEXT COURSE: Sustainable Westport sponsored a webinar on eating more with less. Click here to see.
A sampling of the food donations grown and collected at the Westport Community Garden through the Grow-A-Row initiative.
In fewer than 4 weeks since the coronavirus struck, calls to Westport’s Department of Human Services quadrupled.
Residents worry about countless things. But the most common fear is food insecurity.
“Between our established clients whom we’ve worked with for years, and new callers who find themselves unable to make ends meet, anxiety and panic is setting in for many,” says director Elaine Daignault.
“A lot of them already face tough decisions between putting food on the table, and paying household expenses.” Already, it is estimated, more than 4% of Westporters face food insecurity.
That’s around 1,200 people. Many are seniors and children.
And, Daignault warns, as social isolation continues and unemployment rises, those challenge will be felt by people who never in the past faced financial difficulties.
This photo symbolizes the fears of a rising number of Westporters.
A single mom with 3 kids has kept only one part-time job. But her rent is due. Without enough savings to stock up at the grocery store, she must stop in 3 times a week. That increases her risk of exposure, causing further despair.
One Westporter relies on the gig economy; his wife is disabled. Suddenly, his income does not cover the cost of food, rent and medications.
A senior citizen has worked part-time as a grocery clerk to supplement his Social Security income. Fearful of exposure to infection, he quit working. He can afford food — but he’s stopped paying his cell phone and electric bills.
An elderly, ailing couple have depended on the Senior Center for their daily hot, nutritious meal. The rest of the time, the wife prepares simple canned soups and frozen dinners.
Daignault is proud of her small staff. They offer connections, support and resources to residents in need. They make personal phone calls, and are working harder now than ever.
They’re providing grocery gift cards to Westporters, and collaborating with the school district to help families access the free and reduced lunch curbside pickup program.
Human Services has a rainy day fund. But there is a limit to their financial resources.
“We can’t wait for state and federal programs to kick in,” Daignault says. “People are hungry now.”
Dan Levinson shares her concerns. A longtime Westporter who years ago helped organize the original Green Village Initiative, he gets things done.
Quickly, he and other concerned residents created a Food Fund. The money they raise will be administered by Westport’s Department of Human Services.
The goal is ambitious: $50,000. But generous contributions jump started it nicely.
Daignault welcomes the support. She calls the Food Fund “a great example of how we as a community can express compassion, and use our skills and creativity to benefit others. It also shows how we are all in this together.”
Senior Center director Sue Pfister adds, “My heart broke when my colleagues in Human Services began to worry about not having resources needed to handle the calls they were getting about folks needing basic food and grocery money.
“I knew if the word got out the community would rise to the occasion, and see to it that not one human being went hungry in Westport. Dan Levinson loved the mission, and ran with the concept. 72 hours later, we were halfway to our goal!”
Click here to donate. For more information — including how to benefit from food funds — call 203-341-1050.
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