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Food Justice in Hartford: The 1st year of the Health Justice CT Challenge

This guest post is written by Jennifer Roach, program leader at Summer of Solutions.

I work with Summer of Solutions Hartford, a food justice and youth leadership development program in Frog Hollow, Hartford, and last spring, I saw a tweet from HealthJusticeCT about their upcoming deadline for the Health Justice CT (HJCT) Challenge. I followed the link and learned that they were looking for CT-based projects to address health inequalities in the state.

I was really excited to find a funding opportunity that focused on health justice, and even though the application deadline was only a week away, I shared it with my organization and we decided to apply. Summer of Solutions Hartford believes that access to healthy, fresh food is an integral component of health justice in our state, so we applied to the HJCT Challenge to expand our urban farming program in Hartford, which is a food desert.

We created and submitted a video explaining our vision of health justice and what we would do with the $10,000 prize. Along with other HJCT Challenge applicants the public was given the opportunity to vote on project they liked best, and at the end of two weeks, the project with the most votes wins! I had never organized an online voting campaign before, but it was an incredible opportunity to rally support for our work and get people excited about helping us expand. After two intense weeks of campaigning and pulling in votes from around the state, we found out that we won the challenge!

Knowing that we had $10,000 going into the summer made a huge difference in our program. We were able to accept and provide need-based stipends to 20 youth participants and say “yes!” when two elementary schools asked us to build gardens for their students. Through our 9-week summer program, our team of participants learned about food and environmental justice and urban farming. Together we worked on 2 community gardens and 2 school gardens in Hartford and engaged over 200 community members in urban agriculture. Now we’re poised for growth going into our third season of the Summer of Solutions program.

If you have a creative idea to address health injustices in Connecticut, you should apply for the Health Justice CT Challenge. It’s a great opportunity to get the word out about your project and, of course, to secure the funding necessary to put it into action!

Jennifer Roach is a program leader at the Summer of Solutions, a food justice and youth leadership development program in Frog Hollow, Hartford, and a chapter of Grand Aspirations. Connect with Summer of Solutions on Twitter.  

Image credit Jennifer Roach

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