Students at Eastern Connecticut State University are interning at GROW Windham as part of the course “Geography of Food” (GEO 331). GROW Windham is an umbrella organization that brings together local partners including the Town of Windham and the Willimantic Food Co-op. The organization works on food issues, especially as they relate to social justice and sustainability.
Some of GROW Windham’s projects include community gardens and nutrition education initiatives. They aim to investigate the core roots of food insecurity and help to improve Windham’s food system. Their efforts are partially supported by a USDA grant. “Food is one of the most important conveyors of culture. It’s important for economics, the environment, and public health. Food to me is one of the central issues of social justice,” said Dr. Mary Curran, who teaches the Geography of Food course.
Dr. Curran, director of the geography minor at ECSU, also serves on GROW Windham’s executive board. She believes it is important to work on the local level to enact change. “There in an enormous amount of food insecurity in Windham, one of the highest levels in Connecticut. So we need to make some changes here. I think it is important that we do this,” said Dr. Curran.
According to the Connecticut Department of Economic & Community Development, Windham is the ninth most distressed community in Connecticut. A distressed community has significant economic weaknesses, which could include high rates of unemployment, substandard housing, and out-migration combined with low rates of home ownership, business formation, and capital investment.
Working as interns at GROW Windham offers Eastern students a chance to apply their knowledge to real world problems and make a meaningful, positive impact in their community. Students apply their unique skillsets to help GROW Windham on its mission. Some students help with databases and logging information, others help improve the GROW Windham website, and still more work hands-on in the community gardens.
Apart from Geography students, ECSU Education students work on GROW Windham’s Curriculum Resource Bank. The bank group develops “Teachers’ Toolkits” which provide ready-to-use educational units on gardens & nutrition for K-5 students to schools in Connecticut. The toolkits allow educators to introduce important concepts about healthy and sustainable eating to children without stressful planning and implementation.
GROW Windham has plenty of opportunities for community volunteers and are always in need of donations to fund their projects. Read more about GROW Windham on their website.