Bridgeport Connecticut is known for many things, such as its beautiful sprawling acres of public parks (nicknamed “Park City”) and for its famous resident 19th-century showman P.T. Barnum. What might be less known is the city’s vibrant network of community-powered organizations striving to ensure all their neighbors have access to healthy foods.
nOURish Bridgeport Inc. Mission
nOURish Bridgeport Inc. is one such organization. nOURish was established in 2009 as a food-centered, volunteer-powered, community-anchored nonprofit. Their mission is to mitigate the effects of food scarcity and food insecurity. Bridgeport CT is defined as a food desert. 1-in-4 residents face daily food insecurity and inaccessibility to nutritious produce. nOURish provides thousands of their neighbors weekly services. They also provide 10 different programs focused on education and health. Their pantry program alone provides meals to over 500 families a week.
Connecticut’s First Nonprofit Indoor Hydroponic Farm
nOURish’s latest endeavor was to start Connecticut’s first nonprofit indoor hydroponic farm. The goal of the farm is to grow fresh food to be distributed to people in need. The indoor hydroponic farm uses Flex Farm technology to grow leafy greens, vegetables, and fruits 365 days a year.
Flex Farms are indoor hydroponic farms that require minimal space, energy, and resources. By carefully controlling everything plants need to thrive, each Flex Farm can grow more than 394 pounds of produce annually. Since indoor hydroponic farms only use water, light, and nutrients there is no need to plan for inclement weather or to deal with the potential food safety issues of produce grown in the dirt – such as the use of pesticides.
nOURish’s Farm Manager Lezli Albelo says they use the Flex Farm to grow a variety of leafy greens like kale and swiss chard along with herbs including basil, oregano, thyme, and more. “The Flex Farms have allowed us to provide our community in the capacity we were hoping for,” Albelo states. “We are able to provide fresh produce to the Connecticut food share through the farm neighbors program every week.”
“nOURish is a great example of a community organization stepping up to feed their neighbors,” says Gil Shaw VP of Expansion at Fork Farms. “ They are blessed to have an engaged farm crew led by Lezli. She is a community leader who understands the importance of growing a resilient local food system”.
Hydroponic Farm Future Plans
nOURish’s indoor hydroponic farm has been so successful with growing food, that they are able to supply fresh produce to other pantries through the Connecticut FoodBank and Foodshare. There are big plans for the future. This includes becoming a hub where students and future urban farmers can learn about the hydroponic growing process. They also hope to continue expanding the farm to grow more varieties of produce and hire more employees through the workforce development program.
Author: Megan Pirelli, Brand Content Director Fork Farms