WESTPORT — A personal pleasure and favorite passion is being turned into an opportunity to help others with the Grow-a-Row program at the Westport Community Garden.
“It’s a pretty special place and pretty vibrant and productive,” said Amy Unikewicz, a Westport resident hoping to help make a difference.
That’s why she had the idea of trying to encourage gardeners to expand this year’s harvest in order to help others with fresh food.
“Every year there are donations that are delivered to the local soup kitchen, the Gillespie Center,” she said, with people generally finding a little extra in their plots with which to help.
This year, however, with the pandemic bringing more people back to the garden, it seemed like an auspicious time to increase the crop and see if the bounty could have farther reach.
Unikewicz partnered with local activists Aileen Brill, a board member at Christ & Holy Trinity Church, and Pippa Bell Ader, co-chair of Sustainable Westport, to help get the ball rolling.
“I’m running the zero food waste challenge,” said Ader, an attempt to get Westport residents to reduce food waste by 25 percent.
Residents can now bring food scraps to the Food Scrap Drop-Off Area at the transfer station, where they will be commercially composted and turned to soil.
“It’s scary how two towns over, people are literally not getting enough food,” Ader said, noting that over 25 percent of Bridgeport residents are food insecure, while in Westport more than 20 percent of the residential trash dumped consists of excess food.
Ader said reducing food waste is good economics for the town as well, given the increasing cost of waste transfer.
Brill has played a pivotal role in charitable activities in other towns, including Bridgeport. There she has worked with The Center for Food Equity and Economic Development (FEED) — an initiative of the Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport — and has organized the pipeline to help bring the food surplus from Westport gardeners to those who can use it.
Trinity Church is now offering a drop off bin for collection inside Branson Hall, with containers available for collection seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Through the FEED Center, the food will then go to support 40 different food pantries and soup kitchens, as well as culinary programs it supports.
“She has a whole system set up there,” Ader said. “It’s a great opportunity.”
Meanwhile, Unikewicz said, among others things, gardeners are “planting extra seedlings and plants … tomatoes and peppers and beans and collards and potatoes.”
“It’s starting to really become this kind of vibrant donation garden,” she said.
“What Amy and other gardeners are doing is amazing, especially dedicating space to grow for food banks,” said Kathleen Kiley of Westport, one of dozens of gardeners who is contributed her own time and talent to helping.Read Full Article
“They and other social services are under such strain due to overwhelming demand,” she said. “It would be great if each community was able to grow food for the food insecure in the state, and in Fairfield County.”
“I think it’s very powerful because it show that we all have the ability to make some small changes,” said Scarlett Sladek, 16, of Westport, who is helping her mom, Unikewicz, with the initiative.
“Individually we might not have that much power, but when we work together,” she said, there’s no limit to what can be accomplished.