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Sprouting Partnerships

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Sprouting Partnerships

At the moment, nutrition and healthy eating are receiving a lot of attention nationwide. From new diets to a spotlight on eating whole, natural foods, communities are identifying important ways to improve their health. Unfortunately, making these lifestyle changes can be difficult for people with substance use disorders.

Many of the people in our programs don’t have experience with cooking or meal preparation. They also tend to have limited incomes or no income at all, so affording healthy food can be a challenge. In other words, they’re starting from scratch when they arrive at our door.

To help address this, we’re starting an exciting new partnership with Urban Fruits & Veggies and Garden Fresh Foodie. Allison DeHonney, President and CEO of Urban Fruits & Veggies, is dedicated to providing Western New Yorkers with high-quality, fresh produce that is locally grown in urban communities. Meanwhile, Jessica Meyers Altman at Garden Fresh Foodie inspires people to try exciting plant-based dishes.

Rebecca and Ashley in front of Casa’s raised garden beds

Casa’s New Gardens

Earlier this month, Allison and Jessica installed new raised garden beds at Casa Di Vita. In these beds, the program will grow fresh fruits and vegetables right outside the building. Ever since the construction, residents have chipped in to maintain the gardens. Two residents in particular have been especially helpful.

Together, Ashley and Nicole water the gardens and tend to the plants as they grow. “Everything was planted by seed” Ashley explained. She actually has no prior experience with gardening, but she’s not letting that stop her. In fact, she’s enjoying the learning process. “It’s really neat to see everything growing,” she said.

They have an impressive list of plants, too: bush beans, beefsteak tomatoes, parsley, banana peppers, red peppers, chocolate peppers, broccoli, bok choy, beets, freckles lettuce, wrinkled cress, spinach, Swiss chard, and zucchini. Urban Fruits and Veggies will also be delivering locally-grown produce to the program every two weeks.

Some of the sprouts growing in the garden

Lunching and Learning

While having all this food on hand is wonderful, we want to make sure our residents actually know how to cook it. That’s where Jessica at Garden Fresh Foodie comes in with her Lunch and Learn demonstrations.

In Jessica’s first presentation, she taught Casa’s residents how to make massaged kale. Jessica showed residents how to remove stems from the kale, and then jumped right into demonstrating how to massage avocado, lemon juice, garlic, and salt into the leaves. Needless to say, Ashley was impressed. “Oh my god, it was so good,” she said. “I was obsessed with it for days.”

Planting the Seeds of Independence

Our hope is that residents take the skills they learn in our programs with them into independence. By showing them how to grow and prepare their own food, we’re demonstrating a skill that can save them money and give them access to healthy fruits and vegetables.

Rebecca Martina, Casa’s Food Services Specialist, really enjoys seeing the residents work together in the garden. “It’s something they can be a part of and put their mark on,” she explained. According to her, the response to these innovations at the program has been “very positive.”  We used donations we’ve received in the last year to help pay for this fabulous new initiative at Casa Di Vita. If you’d like to contribute to the important work of our agency, please visit our donation page. Next year, we hope to expand this work to some of our other programs.

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