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Bringing Fresh Produce Closer To Home

Katie Toth

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, many neighborhoods in Bridgeport, Connecticut are more than half a mile from a major grocery store. One of those neighborhoods is home to the city’s largest affordable housing complex, Trumbull Gardens. The nearest grocery stores are more than a 20 minute walk from the Trumbull Gardens area. And according to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 1 in 6 households in the neighborhood that includes Trumbull Gardens don’t have a car. That’s almost double the national average

Amarilis Colon, a resident of Trumbull Gardens, says that makes it hard for people who live in the neighborhood to buy fresh vegetables, especially seniors and people with disabilities.

A map of Bridgeport, Conn. Areas highlighted in orange show neighborhoods where the nearest grocery store is more than half a mile away.

“You know, for those that don’t have a car, it’s quite challenging,” she said. “Taking the bus or paying for taxis.”

That’s why she and another resident of the housing project are starting a business to change that. She’s starting a weekly produce stand at the project’s community room with Trumbull Gardens’ resident council president, Karen Bracey, and the support of a local nonprofit called the Bridgeport Council of Churches.

The entrepreneurs got approval this month from the Bridgeport Health Department to use the community room once a week as a produce stand. Next, they want to get approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees food benefit programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (more commonly known as "food stamps"). If they get approval, they’ll be able to sell produce to people who use food stamps. A Bridgeport Council of Churches representative said she expects the produce stand to be up and running by January of 2016.

Colon, a mother of four, is used to going the extra mile to make sure she and her kids have cheap, inexpensive produce. Unlike many of her neighbors, she does have a car, so she drives to grocery stores in the area and clips coupons to get the best deals.

Colon hopes that her project will make it easier for her neighbors to share her passion.

“For those that don’t do what I do,” she said, “bringing it to them is kind of awesome.”

Kathie is a former editor at WSHU.
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