NEW BRITAIN – It is planting season for New Britain ROOTS and the nonprofit organization is calling attention to the importance of promoting community health through local vegetables and fruits.
The goal is to grow 2,000 pounds of food across the organization’s 12 farms throughout the city, which is a complex task that is essential to their mission of food security through urban agriculture. New Britain ROOTS is a nonprofit organization that cultivates community connections and equitable access to quality food through empowerment and learning with the people who grow, prepare and eat food in New Britain.
“Food is the common denominator for all people,” said Joey Listro, executive director and founder of ROOTS. “When our relationship with food is unhealthy, many aspects of our community are unhealthy. That’s why we are dedicated to building relationships using food as a source for love and health for all.”
The organization receives support from different community leaders in order to continue its mission. One of those supporters is the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation that invested $30,000 in grants to ROOTS over the last two years, as well as awarding an additional $10,000 for COVID-19 emergency funding.
“For some time now, we’ve been supporting local food partners like ROOTS across the region, growers, gleaners, distributors, all food justice activists, to make sure everyone can eat healthy food,” said Karen Voci, president of the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation. “We are proud to support all groups helping families eat better, and to challenge head-on the daily issues of food insecurity and racial injustice. Now more than ever, we need to care for one another in the most basic ways.”
All the food grown by ROOTS is distributed in New Britain to either food pantries or sold by youth at the farmer’s market. The ROOTS Mobile Farmers Market has been serving up fresh fruits and vegetables in the city for the past six years. It also provides a platform for youth to gain sales and marketing skills while addressing major concerns that are common in under-resourced cities, which is the lack of access to locally grown food.
While the organization offers assistance to cut the cost by 50% for all fruits and vegetables purchased for certain buyers, the core of the market’s mission is “meeting people where they’re at,” Listro said.
“So many of our neighbors cannot afford or find good food. ROOTS works to bring the farmers table to them, and to promote equity and inclusion in the good food movement for all people,” he said.
One of the most challenging demographics to “meet where they’re at” is the older population, according to Listro, who pointed out it’s no secret there is immense need in supporting the aging population. But ROOTS is finding ways to connect older people with good food through its Food is Love Project, which was initiated by a grant provided by the Tufts Health Plan Foundation.
The project launched this month and seeks to build relationships between older people and the food they eat through home garden kits to be installed at the homes of eligible adults. This will continue throughout the summer with a farmer’s market delivery service coordinated by ROOTS and the New Britain Senior Center.
“Many older adults are at higher risk for COVID-19 and the more we can reduce their exposure to the virus the safer we are as a community,” Listro said.
For those interested in applying for the raised bed garden kit or the delivery service, call the New Britain Senior Center at 860-826-3553.