Grace Farms in New Canaan is entering its fifth year as a welcoming place where people go to enjoy everything from nature and monthly community meals to programs focused on faith, art and other interests. It’s 80 acres of natural beauty where you can get your Zen on, but it’s so much more.
This unique, peaceful place, which closed March 9 because of coronavirus concerns, has pivoted for today’s world and found a new purpose — feeding the hungry.
Neena Perez, manager of the Commons at Grace Farms, is leading a team to cook meals for people in need who are served by Fairfield County organizations. “This week we did 500 meals,” she said. “In the coming week it will probably be close to 600.”
“The organizations receiving the meals are so grateful,” Perez said, adding there were five at first, and now there’s seven. “I just got a call from one of them, Staying Put in New Canaan, which serves the elderly. They called to make sure we’re going to deliver soup again. I’m super excited they liked the soup.”
Sharon Prince, CEO and founder of Grace Farms Foundation (GFF), explained how they went from offering meeting space to fellow nonprofits to using their own kitchen to help those organizations feed the most vulnerable members of the community. It started with the early March move to shut the doors, even though there’s no known case of COVID-19 connected to Grace Farms.
“We labored over the decision to close,” Prince said. “I believe we were one of the first cultural institutions in the country to fully close on the 9th.” Once that happened and employees were assured their jobs were still secure, “about 10 of us started to assess the needs of our community” by phone.
“When we realized food was a primary need and that food scarcity would escalate, the idea emerged that we could use our own kitchen to be able to serve our existing nonprofit partners, who were already in need by that Thursday.”
Everyone at Grace Farms has been energized by this project, she said, and it’s “a way to get to know our neighbors better.” GFF is committed to providing fresh, healthy meals and/or supplies for the duration of this temporary closure.
Of course all health guidelines are being followed in the kitchen. Prince said the biggest challenge she can see is assuring that everyone stays 6 feet apart. Perez has been training her team for several weeks to prepare for this, and said everyone realizes how important it is to keep everything sanitary while following proper food-prep and hand-washing procedures.
“We all wanted to do something good for our communities,” Perez said. “This is a tough time for a lot of people. It takes a village, so we are all onboard.”
Grace Farms’ purpose “is to advance good together with the public, private and government sector, and confront long-standing pressing humanitarian issues that deprive justice and freedom for all,” Prince said.Read Full Article
“Right now, alongside our foundation’s ongoing work, we switched gears, and decided to safely prepare and serve food to our most vulnerable neighbors and community, particular children, families, and the elderly.”
Grace Farms is at 365 Lukes Wood Road and will continue to advance its five initiatives — nature, arts, justice, community and faith — even during this closure. Further details are at gracefarms.org.
Following is a list of organizations receiving assistance:
• Person 2 Person: GFF will provide meals for the individuals and families whom they serve. Person 2 Person provides assistance for basic needs to overcome daily challenges and access to resources to improve lives.
• Inspirica: Inspirica works to break the cycle of homelessness. GFF will provide meals for Inspirica clients.
• Open Door Shelter: Open Door provides shelter, food, clothing, case management services, treatment services, and transitional planning for children and families in Norwalk. GFF will donate pantry staple items for their clients.
• Staying Put New Canaan: GFF is providing hot meals for seniors who work with Staying Put, which gives social support and assistance to seniors in the New Canaan area.
• Bridgeport Rescue Mission: This organization provides meals, clothing, shelter and recovery services for people experiencing poverty, addiction and homelessness. GFF is providing canned goods and cooked meals for their clients.
• Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigrants (CIRI): CIRI provides services and advocacy for immigrants, refugees and survivors of human trafficking and torture. GFF will provide meals and food for those they serve.
• Food Rescue US: Food Rescue US delivers food from business that have too much to those in need. GFF is working with Food Rescue US to deliver meals, canned goods and produce that organizations can use to re-stock their supplies and continue to serve the community.
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