The vision Susan Pronovost had five years ago is finally coming to fruition. And she feels it’s a game changer for many people in Waterbury — specifically the South End — and for farmers around Connecticut.
“This is going to be a legacy to this community,” Susan said. “A legacy of — we did something in this community that’s going to have long lasting meaning and change people’s lives.”
Susan runs Brass City Harvest — a Waterbury non-profit that tries to bring healthy food into urban neighborhoods, like the South End, that are known as “Food Deserts” — places where there are very few supermarkets or stores that sell healthy food, like vegetables.
Susan’s vision was to turn a depressed lot on Mill Street into what will one day become a location for a regional urban food hub — the first in Connecticut.
It will be a place for Connecticut farmers to wash their produce with the latest state-of-the-art equipment so they can be sure they’re meeting new safety standards. The Food Hub will also serve as a place for them to sell their produce and for people in the South End or other nearby neighborhoods to get the access to healthy food they need to avoid health problems, like obesity, which is a big concern in Waterbury.
“I’m diabetic myself so for me it’s hard,” said South End resident, Elvis Garcia.
The Food Hub will help create 24 food industry jobs and it’ll also teach vocational skills. Garcia also sees that as a healthy option for his community.
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“You see a lot of homeless, a lot of people who are looking for jobs,” he said. “So, yes, it’s a good thing.”
Susan also adds the lot that will become home to the food hub used to be a brownfield.
“It’s been vacant and unproductive all these years so now we’re taking a piece of land, making it productive, giving people in the neighborhood real jobs, teaching them a real trade in the food industry,” said Susan.
She’s also proud that it will benefit Connecticut farmers, pointing out that neighboring states have food hubs that help their farmers stay afloat. Susan wanted to see the same thing happening in Connecticut.
“This gives out growers a chance to meet the new food safety standards, but it gives them market access — things they don’t really have right now,” she said. “And rural farmers don’t have access to capital or the institutional capacity to handle the Food Safety Modernization Act, so we’re helping along with that.”
That’s why Susan looked on with pride as construction crews were tearing up the concrete and digging up the dirt helping to plant the seeds of her vision and a brighter, greener future.
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