Taking Better Care Of Newtown’s Hungry, And Ourselves
As winter weather begins breaking, and any resistant snow cover continues to recede, the thoughts of many local gardeners turn once again to breaking ground out in the garden. Many have likely already ordered seeds, or have them germinating, and are dreaming of celebrating nature’s bounty by munching on some of the season’s earliest vegetables and fruits.
With December’s holidays and the outpouring of related food donations long past, and spring around the corner, it is also a time when many who are blessed to not be among Newtown’s more economically at risk may become distracted from the fact that hundreds of our neighbors including many children still regularly go to bed hungry.
Several years ago, the challenges facing Newtown’s hungry came to the attention of resident Sean Fitzpatrick. He recognized that FAITH Food Pantry (the letters stand for Food Assistance Immediate, Temporary Help), which has for nearly four decades done incredible work collecting and distributing food and other items including pet food to those who are forced to otherwise go without, had one thing missing: fresh food offerings.
Volunteer gardeners who adopt rows at The Victory Garden at Fairfield Hills have been growing fresh produce for the local pantry, and Nunnawauk Meadows, since 2011. Fitzgerald noted a need for additional fresh grown produce and fruits for the hundreds of local families who depend on FAITH, and decided to do something about it. Out of his initial astuteness has emerged the local nonprofit Real Food Share. Today, the organization’s self-proclaimed “farmer and coach,” along with a hearty and expanding corps of volunteers, has built community gardens in great part devoted to supplementing the food already being distributed by FAITH with delicious, fresh, healthy, Newtown-grown produce.
Using non-commercial regenerative practices, local pollinator populations, organic fertilizers, no-till bed preparation, and season extension techniques, Real Food Share is delivering the healthiest, best tasting produce to hungry neighbors. Real Food Share does all that while taking an active part in restoring and enhancing Newtown’s natural resources, as well as supporting our local food economy. Entering its fourth year, the organization has done such a good job, it has plans to also continue supplying food to at least 10 additional organizations during their growing season.
If you are inclined to support this nonprofit with your donations — either monetary or by donating food from numerous regional farmers markets — the organization is gearing up for 2022 with plans to add a full-size greenhouse at its Sticks and Stones location which will further extend the growing season, and finalize their Small Farm Model, which they hope to replicate in underprivileged communities.
Real Food Share is also running free Grow Your Own workshops at its Huntingtown Road gardens starting Saturday, March 19. These will continue monthly with topics relative to the time of year — how to plan your garden, starting seeds, soil amendments, and more. With continued support from its volunteers, supplemented by grants, Fitzpatrick and his Real Food Share team hope to donate over 75,000 pounds of produce this upcoming season.
If this is an effort you would like to dig into, we encourage you to visit realfoodshare.org, pull on your “Bean Boots,” grab a shovel or a pair of sturdy gloves, and be part of the movement that is helping keep our hungry neighbors — and a growing number of our neighboring communities — supplied with fresh food, locally grown with love from Newtown.