While Yalies may complain about skimpy salad bars, some residents in Fair Haven can barely afford fresh vegetables or fruits every day. A new community garden hopes to change that.
This month, during the Yale Graduate Day of Service, graduate students completed the construction of a greenhouse for the garden. The community garden is part of a diabetes prevention program organized by the Fair Haven Community Health Center (FHCHC) and launched in June. The prevention initiative encourages people at risk for the disease to exercise, learn about nutrition and work in the garden in exchange for fresh vegetables. Chabaso Bakery, a chain of bakeries, and Growell, a greenhouse-building company in Cheshire, donated the materials to set up the garden and build the greenhouse.
Diabetes prevention is particularly important in Fair Haven, a low-income, predominantly Hispanic neighborhood, where residents are at a higher risk for diabetes because they usually eat the cheapest and most unhealthy food, said Rebecca Kline, Diabetes Prevention Program communications and community garden manager for FHCHC.
Typically, three or four participants come to work in the garden from 9-11:00 a.m. or 5-6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, Kline said. They plant, and at the end of a work session, they divide up whatever is ready to be harvested to bring home to their families, she added.
Parents are also encouraged to bring their children, “because diabetes is a family, community-based disease,” Kline said.
“I like working here because it relieves stress and I learn how to plant things,” said Margarita, one of the participants who has been working in the garden once or twice a week since June. Having no children of her own, she said she often brings her niece.
Catherine Fontana GRD ’15, an organizer of the Yale Graduate Day of Service, said she hoped that “the event allowed students to connect with their community in such a way that they continue their service there beyond the Yale Day of Service.”
In fact, Yalies are more connected to Fair Haven than they realize, said Kline, adding that Fair Haven is the neighborhood where many Yale dining hall and maintenance workers live.
The Chabaso garden was originally developed by Nancy Dennett, wife of owner Charles Negaro of Chabaso Bakery, to supply employees with healthy food. This spring, she collaborated with Elizabeth Magenheimer from FHCHC to set up a community garden dedicated to helping Fair Haven residents who are at risk for diabetes. A study by the National Institutes of Health concluded that effective exercise and a healthy diet can reduce risk of developing diabetes by 58 percent. The garden is a way to carry out the results of the study in the Fair Haven community.
“Now the work is to translate that and implement that,” said Dr. Anne Camp, director of the Diabetes Prevention Program at FHCHC.
“One day, I want to start a farm in Fair Haven so that everybody will be able to eat vegetables of this quality at least once a day,” said Kline after Margarita informed her that the vegetables she took home last time lasted three days.
The community garden is located behind the Chabaso Bakery at 360 James St.