Shires Housing Shares the Bounty of Garden Produce with Residents
Grants for Food Access Pilot Projects at Affordable Housing Sites
In February 2018, VHCB’s Food Access & Affordable Housing Initiative awarded $14,000 in funding to support food access programming at affordable housing sites that increases residents’ access to local, healthy food. This initiative supports new collaborations between affordable housing and food access organizations to assist residents in eating more fresh, healthy foods and overcoming barriers such as cost, transportation, and familiarity with preparing and eating these foods. Eligible projects include programs or services such as cooking & nutrition classes, community meals, local food buying clubs, community gardening, edible landscaping, etc.
Shires Housing, a non-profit affordable housing provider in Bennington, used a $3,500 grant to provide cooking and gardening programs for 56 residents at two Shires communities, Applegate Apartments (family rental apartments) and Cora B Whitney. They held a Junior Chefs Cooking Class at Applegate and "Rock Your Crockpot" for the adults at both sites. They also now have community garden projects at both sites including raised beds and table gardens for the seniors.
Some had never prepared some of the healthy meals presented in class, such as homemade chicken nuggets with panko breading, fresh vegetables made with a spiralizer, and homemade bread. The participants said that their children much preferred homemade food to frozen. They also learned how to prepare meals affordably ahead of time in the Rock Your Crockpot class Also, many had never gardened before or had only grown flowers, so the community gardens were a new experience for some of the residents. The children will set up a farm stand on site at the end of their growing season and will sell their produce, with the benefits going to a Harvest Ball in the fall.
Shires Housing said they were able to have a true impact on the families who participated and it was a great way for families to meet and to socialize as well.