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Innovation Leads the Way to Food Access

Debbie talks to community about pop upDebbie Sims attended her first New England Food Summit This past June when the 6th annual Summit was held in Bridgeport, CT.  Debbie, and a group delegates known as “Trailblazers,” were invited through Food Solutions New England’s Ambassador Team. 

Debbie has been working for many years to bring a full service grocery store into her neighborhood in the East End of Bridgeport, which is considerd a food desert.  While she never gave up on the idea, she was discouraged until she attended the Food Summit.  In Marilyn Moore’s conversation with Debbie, she shared that the Summit inspired her, gave her hope and access to resources to build an equitable food system.  She had no idea that so many people in the New England states were working on food justice and she was excited by the collaborative work being done to address health equity.

Armed with support from her Summit contacts, Debbie moved forward on the project to bring healthy food options to her neighborhood.  Her work resulted in the East End NRZ’s Pop-Up Market & Café that is planning to improve access to fresh fruits and vegetables as well as providing job training for youth and community engagement; it is scheduled to open early in 2017 in space donated by Bridgeport Neighborhood Trust. Through collaboration with Greater Bridgeport O.I.C. and others the project received $10,000 seed money and were selected to participate in the HealthyCommunity50 Challenge (a partnership between the Aetna Foundation, the American Public Health Association, and the National Association of Counties) which could bring up to $500k to the project. The Food Solutions New England network provided Debbie with the seeds of determination and fortitude needed to sustain the efforts that are necessary to create healthy communities.

Marilyn Moore is a first term State Senator who represents the 22nd District in Connecticut and founder and CEO of the Witness Project of CT.  She began her journey with Food Solutions New England (FSNE) after learning about FSNE when she joined the CT Food System Alliance. She is the FSNE Connecticut Ambassador and was proud to bring the Summit to her hometown in Bridgeport.