Hartford Foundation Approves $180,000 Grant for Billings Forge Farm-To-Table Youth and Family Programming

More Hartford youth and their families will learn about how to choose, grow and prepare healthy food thanks to a three-year, $180,000 grant to Billings Forge Community Works from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.

These funds will allow Billings Forge to expand its farm-to-table youth programming, which builds on its core areas of expertise—cooking, urban gardening, and social enterprises through interaction with its farmers’ market and cafes and diverse teaching staff. Billings Forge’s Youth Kitchen and Garden Classroom curriculum targets students in grades 3 to 12, with a focus on Frog Hollow and other Hartford neighborhoods, as well as supporting other Greater Hartford communities. 

 “We are so delighted with our three-year grant from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving,” said Billings Forge executive director Cary Wheaton. “This provides a solid financial foundation for a new and exciting program.  It's a thrill to see kids realize that they can cook, and to learn new recipes and techniques, and to work and learn together in community. In addition, the Foundation has also allowed us to participate in their Building Evaluation Capacity program, giving us rigorous tools to measure our progress.”

Hartford Foundation funding will support the position of youth program director as well as other and indirect program costs including program expenses outside of existing staff positions, such as hourly wages for residents supporting the program, food, or promotional materials.

The program integrates basic cooking skills, urban agriculture and entrepreneurial skills.  Working in partnership with schools or youth organizations, the structured curriculum presents food systems, nutrition and cooking concepts, and hands-on activities that can be adapted to complement science, math and social studies lessons and after-school programs.  This unique learning environment also fosters communication, teamwork, and community building while participants are introduced to the three main curriculum areas: the culinary arts, urban agriculture and entrepreneurial skill building.

"We have many students in the 5th grade who have trouble staying on task, following directions, and working collaboratively in groups; however, during our series of classes and particularly on the cooking day, I was amazed and impressed with how involved, attentive, and in-control the students were-especially our toughest behaviorally challenged students,’ said Courtney Mulcahy, community partnership liaison at Hartford Public Schools Fred D. Wish Museum School. “This is something desperately needed in our schools, but unfortunately programs like this that engage and foster these skills are cut because of budget constraints and aren't necessarily being taught at home."

Local Hartford youth will have a variety of options in which to participate in the program including field trips, after-school sessions, in-school sessions, summer programs and Family Nights Out/Noches en Familia cooking classes. The expanded program will substantially increase the number of working partnerships with schools and nonprofit organizations and the number of students and families serviced as well as the depth and breadth of these learning opportunities.

Billings Forge Community Works (BFCW) is a driving force for community participation and empowerment in Frog Hollow through promoting access to healthy food; engaging youth; and developing employment opportunities and economically sustainable social enterprises. For more information, visit http://www.billingsforgeworks.org or call 860-548-9877.

The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, established in 1925, is the community foundation for 29 communities in the Hartford region. It is dedicated to putting philanthropy into action to create lasting solutions that result in vibrant communities within the Greater Hartford region. It receives gifts from generous individuals, families and organizations, and in 2013 awarded grants of more than $29 million to a broad range of area nonprofits. For more information, visit www.hfpg.org or call 860-548-1888.