Published in The Stamford Advocate and The Darien Times
By Susan Shultz, April 21, 2020
DARIEN — For those who are food insecure on a tight budget, the first thing to skip is often the fresh produce aisle, according to Person-to-Person Executive Director Nancy Coughlin.
“Fresh food, especially organic food — it is hard to make your dollar stretch,” she said.
Person-to-Person, with locations in Darien and Norwalk, serves residents in need from Stamford, Norwalk, Darien, New Canaan, Weston, Westport and Wilton. Its offers food, clothing, financial assistance, diapers and helps in other ways.
Along with helping clients with all of the above, Coughlin said another goal is getting more fresh fruit and vegetables to clients. P2P’s Fresh Committee develops partnerships with local organizations, community gardens and farmers markets.
The Unity Garden’s origins were due to a project created by an Eagle Scout on the property many years ago. It became a pet project of local volunteer groups and occasionally was sponsored by corporate organizations.
P2P had never invested a lot of money into the property in the past because they felt it wasn’t enough space to make a big difference.
But now, Moore, working with a master gardener, has created a plan for rolling crops depending on their harvest. As a St. Luke’s vestry member, Moore is also P2P’s church liaison. St. Luke’s Parish has also invested in the garden this year, which helped create raised beds and build fencing to keep animals out as produce begins to grow.
This plan will enable P2P to get the most out of its modest space. Eventually, Coughlin said the hope is that clients can pick produce themselves.
Darien High’s Ecocitizens Club is planning to donate compost from its current school compost project as well.
The crops will begin with cooler temp vegetables like lettuce, followed by beans and radishes, as well as culturally appropriate vegetables clients would prefer.
Coughlin said she that home gardeners remember P2P during their gardening season.
“I know sometimes that gardens suddenly produce more tomatoes or zucchini than we can use. It would be great if they considered donating to us,” she said.
Coughlin said the Fresh Committee also intends to contact Darien’s Community Gardens at Cherry Lawn Park to see if those gardeners would consider donating any surplus crop.
Before she came to Darien, Coughlin said she worked at a food pantry in Greenwich and learned then to develop good relationships with gardeners and farmers markets.
Often, volunteers will go to the Darien Farmers Market at the end of the day and see if gardeners wished to donate rather than drive all their yield back home. Coughlin said most of the time the farmers at the markets are happy to help food pantries.
In particular, Coughlin said P2P tries to seek out produce with a long shelf-life, including apples, oranges and potatoes.
Other ways volunteers can help is to find local community gardens, such as Fodor Farms in Norwalk, with open plots. Volunteers can adopt a spot and then donate what they harvest to the food pantry.
“We can always use help with that. We’ve had great success working with houses of worship or other groups. It’s a very successful model,” she said.
In addition to fresh vegetables, Person-to-Person is always seeking financial and goods donations. Recently, diapers have been a critical need. Visit p2phelps.org to find out what and how to donate.
Read article on The Stamford Advocate.
Learn more about P2P’s Unity Garden.