GROW Windham cultivates relationships and creates space for youth, community members, and food system partners to work together to build a stronger community and local food system.
About GROW Windham
GROW Windham has been a part of the Willimantic community since 2011, when it was founded by Director Sally Milius and Alice Rubin, the general manager of the Willimantic Food Coop. Our aim is to cultivate relationships and create space for youth, community members, and food system partners to work together to build a stronger community and local food system. In order to accomplish these goals, we are constantly cultivating community leaders and community enterprises as well as facilitating community engagement and problem-solving. We are also focused on leveraging local resources to meet local needs and foster opportunities, as well as nurturing relationships.
The Windham Youth CORE is a subset of GROW Windham that engages high school students in several youth-led enterprises that provide participants with the opportunity to build their community as well as a skill-set for career and life experiences that will last far beyond their journey here. The Youth CORE works alongside university students and community members to build and maintain community gardens, grow food to donate to local agencies and sell at the Willimantic Farmers’ Market, run our own Sofrito business, teach younger children about growing food and eating well, and participate in community outreach and events.
GROW Windham and the Windham Youth CORE seeks to address three community challenges; economic prosperity, food justice, and representative community leadership. Windham is the 9th most distressed municipality in CT, with soaring unemployment and poverty rates. Most jobs and businesses are not local, draining effort and investment away from the community. Windham Youth Core (Cultivating Opportunities, Resources, and Education) “community enterprises” prepare youth to be successful in a range of careers, and to invest in sustainable local community development as part of their bottom line. To help encourage food justice, GROW Windham focuses on alleviating townwide problems with food insecurity. Windham ranks 5th of CT’s 169 towns for risk factors for food insecurity, and has the highest obesity rate (30%) of all CT counties. WYC relieves the immediate symptoms of this epidemic by engaging youth in enterprises that promote local food access, while simultaneously addressing its root causes, by empowering youth to build their own just and sustainable food enterprises and advocate for long- term food system change. In addition, Windham has a large Latinx population that faces social and economic segregation. There is nominal minority participation in government and public institutions, resulting in the isolation of the community’s most marginalized residents from resources and opportunities to advocate for them. The WYC engages the community through its diverse network of youth and their engagement campaigns, and builds a new diverse generation of leaders to advocate for their community in the future.
Facts About Food Insecurity
- Food security is defined as all people having consistent access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life. A food insecure family may not be struggling with buying food, but finding healthy and affordable options nearby.
- There are three pillars of food security
- Availability: sufficient quantities of food available on a consistent basis.
- Access: having sufficient resources to obtain appropriate foods for a nutritious diet.
- Food use: appropriate use based on knowledge of basic nutrition and care, as well as adequate water and sanitation.
- 13.9% of Connecticut residents are food insecure and 6.0% are very food insecure — a slight increase from 11.9% and 4.7%, respectively, in 2009-2011.
- Only 25 of every 100 low-income students that participate in school lunch also participate in summer meals
- Connecticut’s SNAP (formerly Food Stamps) participation rate is 72%. Only 53% of the eligible working poor participate in the SNAP program. Many go to food pantries instead for food. For every $1 spent on WIC funding, Connecticut saves $1.77-$3.13 on future medical costs.
- The Feeding America Hunger in America 2014 survey revealed that in that year, out of all the food pantry and soup kitchen clients in Connecticut
- 73% had to choose between food or utilities
- 63% had to choose between food or rent
- 68% had to choose between food or medical care
Call For Volunteers
Volunteers are the backbone of our organization. If you’re a gardener, an artist, a carpenter, an organizer, or just ready to help make a change in your community, there is a place for you at GROW Windham. To volunteer, simply fill out our volunteer form and we’ll be in touch with opportunities. GROW Windham also offers a variety of internships to community members and students who want to impact their community while developing skills, gaining meaningful job experience, and/or earning course credit. Internships forms can also be found online, and are offered year-round, and are customized to suit the goals and skills of interns and meet community needs.
First Annual CommUNIDAD Leaders Award
This CommUNITY/CommUNIDAD event originated as a result of the Windham Youth CORE’s newest initiative: “Certified Community”. Certified Community, which was created last summer, began as a way for the Youth CORE to market our own locally-made products such as our Sofrito and Frog Fire/Fuego de Rana hot sauce, while educating the community about the importance of investing locally. However, the initiative has since grown to recognize other businesses, people, and programs working to improve Windham’s local community by investing their time, money, and efforts into the local food system, economy, and community. CommUNITY/ CommUNIDAD is the first awards ceremony that will recognize pioneers in not only the food system, but the community as a whole.
Photo provided by Windham Public Schools
Our Stories, Our Truth
Diverse presenters share their stories, and then take time for the audience to share their own.
Our presenters were Nayo Jones, educator and poet; Reven Smith, spoken word artist; Dan Urban, author; and Sarah Moon, Academic and Community Writing mentor.
More information about past events as well as related pictures can be found on our Facebook page.
SNAP Double Bucks
Grow Windham raises the funds for the SNAP Double Bucks Program at the Willimantic Farmers Market. The program allows families to receive up to an additional $10 dollars worth of fruits and vegetables every week when they shop with their EBT card at the market. This helps families in our community eat healthier while putting more money back into the pockets of our local farmers.
The Windham Community Food Network (WCFN) strives to create opportunities for the community by building a just, sustainable and inclusive community food system. GROW Windham is a member of the Windham Community Food Network and currently also works as the backbone support for the administrative needs of the network. The mission of the Windham Community Food Network is to create opportunities for the community by building a just and sustainable food system. The network is made up of a diverse group of participants including community members, local farmers, and nonprofits.
Windham Youth CORE
Certified Community Initiative
“Certified Community” is our newst youth-led initiative, a designation that recognizes locally grown products, initiatives, and leaders dedicated to the development and well-being of our community. Look for the “Certified Community” logo at participating businesses and farms! All of our Youth CORE products are Community Certified, our produce, Sofrito, and Frog Fire Hot Sauce, and new line of greeting cards – all made by locally grown kids, using locally grown ingredients.
Sally Milius is a former high school teacher who decided that gardens were much more fun than classrooms and Willimantic the greatest community she could ever call home. In 2011, she co-founded GROW Windham with Alice Rubin, the general manager of the Willimantic Food Coop.
Jaron Gaier discovered his love for gardening in college, and has filled a variety of roles since graduating in \’12. He is very excited about his newest role, as the garden coordinator at the Thread City Family Garden.
Windham Youth CORE Program Coordinator
Dianisi Torres is a current resident of Mansfield. Dianisi facilitates nutrition and cooking workshops for the diverse community of the Windham County and cultivates garden programs in different locations through her position at UConn College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. Dianisi also coordinates the Windham Youth CORE program at GROW Windham.
© GROW Windham
872 Main Street, Willimantic, CT 06226
(860) 423-4534 x312