Impact Fairfield County Hosts “Impactful Conversations: The Future of Food”

Impact Fairfield County (Impact FFC) held its second Impactful Conversation of the 2022-2023 grant year on the topic of “The Future of Food,” addressing what it means to have access to local organic farming and how investments in indoor hydroponic farming from nOURish BRIDGEPORT are producing healthy, sustainable food for food insecure residents of Fairfield County.

The animated panel discussion at the Anderson Youth and Community Center at the St. Luke’s Parish in Darien featured Impact FFC Grantee nOURish BRIDGEPORT and the state’s leading farmers’ market, Westport Farmers’ Market.

From L to R: Reverend Sara D. Smith, Esq., President and CEO of nOURish BRIDGEPORT; Katharine Lumby, Co-President of Impact FFC; Jenny San Jose, Co-President of Impact FFC; Lori Cochran-Dougall, Executive Director of Westport Farmers’ Market.

Members of Impact FFC participated in a dynamic conversation with Reverend Sara D. Smith, President, CEO and Founder of nOURish BRIDGEPORT and Lori Cochran-Dougall, Executive Director of the Westport Farmers’ Market, moderated by Maryellen Frank, Co-Chair of Events for Impact FFC.

One of Impact FFC’s $100,000 Grant winners last year, nOURish BRIDGEPORT addressed how, with the support of Impact FFC, nOURish BRIDGEPORT opened Connecticut’s first nonprofit indoor hydroponic farm in mid-2022.  In the past six months, nOURish has produced and distributed 2.5 tons of fresh, nutritionally-dense produce.  nOURish is now able to grow produce not typically able to grow within the state or year-round. “The people we serve struggle with daily food insecurity and inaccessibility.  They are at the bottom of the food chain and they don’t deserve abnormally giant, slimy carrots or half-rotted potatoes.  Mothers should not have to choose between medicine for their children or food on the table,” said Reverend Smith. 

Also committed to the importance of providing fresh, local and healthy food, the Westport Farmers’ Market (“WFM”) works to support local farmers to maintain a sustainable food pipeline.  Open year-round, with more than 50 vendors and thousands of shoppers each week, Cochran-Dougall said, “We have the strictest guidelines in the state and every prepared food must have locally-sourced, farmed ingredients.” In addition, each week, a sizable amount of excess inventory is donated to the local food banks through organizations such as Fresh Rescue, continuing to support high-need communities. 

Both organizations are pushing beyond our current food ecosystem, noting some of the following key benefits of their work during the panel: 

  • Improving Health: Healthy, local produce is more nutritionally dense, serving to reduce the tax on our medical system, and will help extend the average life expectancy (i.e. the average age of death in Bridgeport is 60 years old)
  • Alleviating Food Scarcity : Focusing on growing locally reduces Fairfield County’s dependence on out-of-state vendors. “Produce that takes 10 days to arrive at your grocery store will go bad soon after you purchase it.  Locally-grown produce can last 3-4 weeks! And our arugula will make you weep.” said Reverend Smith. 
  • Generating Local Income: Local farmers are key to our local economies and our food sustainability, but could be supported more.  Cochran-Dougall said, “27% of farmers have requested  food subsidies, such as SNAP. By buying local, you not only gain the benefit of cleaner ingredients, but the money goes directly to the farmers rather than receiving a very small percentage when purchased at the grocery store. 
  • Impacting our Economy: By supporting our local suppliers through farming and jobs, our local communities benefit from the circular economic impact of providing income which can be, in turn, to be spent with our other small businesses. 
  • Increasing Idea Sharing: The benefit of collaboration is evident, with female-led organizations in Fairfield County a solid example of such partnership.  Cochran-Dougall said, “We are taking control of these issues, to be strong community advocates and working with amazing organizations like Impact and nOURish BRIDGEPORT is how we will do this. Sharing of knowledge, making connections and supporting each other’s missions is crucial.” 
From L to R: Maryellen Frank, Co-Chair Events of Impact FFC; Reverend Sara D. Smith, Esq., President and CEO of nOURish BRIDGEPORT; Lori Cochran-Dougall, Executive Director of Westport Farmers’ Market

The overarching theme of the discussion centered around the impact local communities can make with everyday decisions.  “Reverend Sara and Lori emphasized how we all have the ability to make a difference by being more deliberate about where and from whom we are making purchases.  We know that significant change starts with each of us as individuals making intentional choices, and that’s why we believe so strongly in our model of collective giving. Together we can do so much more,” said Impact FFC Co-President, Katharine Lumby.

Impact FFC is also pleased to announce 260 members have joined for the 2022-2023 grant year across 19 towns in Fairfield, including representatives from two corporate sponsors, The Ashforth Company and UBS.  Winners of this year’s $100,000 grants will be announced on May 3, 2023.