CALL FOR PROPOSALS: 2020 Connecticut Food System Alliance Summit

Event: May 2, 2020 | 9 am – 4 pm
Common Ground High School, New Haven

Proposal Deadline: Friday, April 10
Chosen projects will be notified by Friday, April 17

summit insta

Join us as we reimagine our Food System Network Summit! Present a question, challenge, or new idea you have to make our food system more sustainable and more equitable – and spend time with your allies across the state improving on that idea, tackling that problem, and generating clarity for the path forward. Rather than a traditional call for proposals asking for workshop topics, we are inviting you to tap into the collective wisdom of Connecticut’s food system actors. Work together, build new relationships, strengthen existing ones, and help build a better food system.

Instead of a traditional lecture and workshop style conference, where presenters are experts teaching the attendees, we want this to be an event where all participants – presenters and attendees – can learn from and work with each other. Therefore, “presenting” at this summit is more like an opportunity to dive deep into your work and find some next steps, insights, and questions to chew.

Submit your proposal here by April 10:

Questions? Email

What are we looking for? We welcome proposals from individuals, organizations, businesses – anyone, a single person or a group of up to four individuals – can submit a proposal. (If your project involves more than four people, still apply – but it should be no more than four people presenting). You can present a challenge you’re experiencing in your work, a question you’re trying to answer, a “rut” you’re stuck in, a new path you’re trying. We will prioritize projects that are collaborative (involving more than one organization, or grassroots efforts). The purpose is to spend a short time presenting your issue (10 minutes), and then gain insights from the group knowledge at the summit (20 minutes). Apply by April 10; project organizers will be notified by April 17, and attendees will get brief overviews of your projects to prepare.


Conferences, symposiums, and other professional network events are great opportunities to connect with new people, learn about ongoing work, and develop new skills. But too often, we are overwhelmed by grant deadlines, project outcomes, and day-to-day management of our organizations. The inspiration and skills gained at a conference can feel disconnected from our regular work. Sometimes, we feel that we must step out at conferences and skip panels in order to attend to “real work.” Conferences and network meetings are real work; but it’s hard to conceptualize them that way. So how can we reinvent that conference meeting space? What if the conference brought clarity to our work and gave us tools to return to our communities and do that work?  The Connecticut Food System Alliance is asking you to reimagine our food system summit with us. We want to create space for our brilliant, passionate network members (you!) to work together to improve the food system.

At the Summit on May 2, we will strengthen our state food system network by offering space for members to work on projects together. The premise of the conference is the question, “How can we leverage network meetings to advance our collective food and farm goals for a more sustainable, food secure Connecticut?”

This will be an opportunity for program directors and staff, community organizers, volunteers, food system leaders, and others to present a food justice/food system project and gather feedback from peers. Is the project on the right track? Is the project stagnant? Is it growing? Is it new? Whatever stage the project is in, we want to create space for project organizers to get feedback and next steps from fellow network members from across the state.


The Summit will adapt “the clearness process,” a Quaker meeting method based on listening, companionship, and reflection. We will adapt the process to a secular, work-oriented strategy to help project organizers gain clarity in their work. Group attendees who are not presenting will have the opportunity to be a part of a unique, community-based process for developing innovative solutions and connecting with peers throughout the state. In addition, all attendees will receive a guide for repeating the process in their own communities and offices.

The process

We are soliciting proposals for people and organizations to be “focus points” for this conference, and will choose nine total proposals in mid-April. Your project should be food system related: for example, organizing a youth food justice campaign, coordinating vendors across a network of urban farmers’ markets, understanding the impact of a food policy council, etc. New projects, established projects, struggling projects – all will be welcome, but projects that prioritize collaboration will be considered first. The projects will be grouped into trios based on relevance (similar problems, similar work area, etc.) to ensure cohesion in each group.

At the Summit, attendees will be briefed on the process and instructions for the workshop portion of the day. In three breakout groups, project organizers will present for 10 minutes and have 20 minutes of feedback and questioning from fellow breakout group members. Each breakout group will include a CFSA organizer to facilitate the workshop. Event attendees are asked to come prepared with at least one question to propel this process forward. This process will repeat three times for each project selected. Breakout groups will collectively choose one of the three projects to present to the full group.

In the afternoon, the three projects selected in the morning will be presented to the full group.


The CFSA is very interested in maintaining the momentum and energy we hope to achieve at this event. We are eager to see how this process furthers food system work in Connecticut. Post-conference, we will organize the presenters into communities of practice, offering virtual meeting time for attendees to connect after the main event. We’ll interview each group who presented during the Summit four months afterward to check in on your progress and ask how the event helped your work.

Sample Agenda (subject to change)

9:00 – 9:30 Event registration and sign-in; breakfast
9:30 – 10:15 Welcome and keynote

Share instructions for breakout group process

10:25 – 12:30 Nine total project organizers present in three breakout groups:
  10:25 – 10:35 Welcome and introductions
10:35 – 11:05 First presentation (10 minute presentation; 20 minute question/feedback period)
11:05 – 11:35 Second presentation (10 minute presentation; 20 minute question/feedback period)
11:35 – 11:45 Break and coffee, snacks
11:45 – 12:15 Third presentation (10 minute presentation; 20 minute question/feedback period)
12:15 – 12:30 Wrap-up; select presenters who will present to the large group
12:40 – 1:30 Lunch
1:40 – 3:10 Presentation of three selected projects; each will have 20 minutes to present and be illustrated live plus question and answer time.
3:15 – 4:00 Wrap-up and closing
4:30 – 6:00 Optional reception/social hour


What’s Connecticut’s food system look like?

To change the food system, we have to understand the current status. Data about Connecticut’s food system reveal that access to food is disproportionately lower for communities of color, and that while farms tend to be small, a handful of very large farms make up the majority of agricultural production.

Scroll on to learn more, or download our Connecticut food system snapshot here.

Food Access

Connecticut ranks 25th in food security in the country. Food security exists when people have access to appropriate, nutritious, affordable food at all times.

food security

Source: USDA Economic Research Service

In the United States, people of color are far more likely to experience food insecurity than white people. Households with children and households headed by single women are also more likely to experience food insecurity, meaning that people of color, women, and children are disproportionately affected by food insecurity.

food security by race

Source: USDA Economic Research Service

In Connecticut, inequitable food access is similar to national trends: white Connecticut residents are more likely to be food secure than their neighbors of color. Suburban/rural people are more likely to be food secure than urban counterparts.

ct food security race

Source: DataHaven Community Wellbeing Survey

White people in Connecticut are more likely to report that their access to healthy, high quality food is excellent or good than neighbors of color.

food access rating

Source: DataHaven Community Wellbeing Survey



Source: USDA Agricultural Census (2012)

Nursery and greenhouse products make up the most agricultural sales in Connecticut, and dairy is among the most productive in sales.

ag categories

Source: USDA Agricultural Census (2012)

Food System Jobs and Retail Food Sales


Sources: US Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Census Bureau Nonemployer Statistics, USDA Agricultural Census.

As a more densely populated state, Connecticut has some of the highest retail food sales in the region.


Sources: US Census Bureau, 2012 Economic Census; direct sales data from USDA Census of Agriculture

Data Sources and More Information

You can also explore some of the sources used on this page and on our snapshot as well as some other recommended sources:

DataHaven serves Greater New Haven and Connecticut by surveying communities on many types of issues ranging from food and health to housing and public safety.

The USDA Agricultural Census is released every 5 years and is a complete count of farmers and ranchers in the US, including urban agriculture. The most recent agricultural census can be found here. A profile of Connecticut agriculture can be found here.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics collects and releases data about employment, sectors, and wages.

The US Census Bureau collects population, demographic, health, food security, and housing data across the United States. You can explore it here.

The CDC reports on health issues, including food-related illness.

Vermont Farm to Plate offers incredible data on Vermont and New England agriculture and food ranging from total local consumption to food education.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization collects and shares information about the state of the global food system.

A special thank you to Scott Sawyer for compiling and designing the graphics used here and to the John Merck Fund for supporting the CFSA to build our capacity in sharing food system data.

CFSA Mini-Grant Spotlight: Grow Windham Know Your Farmer Fair

In March, the Connecticut Food System Alliance awarded  Grow Windham with a mini-grant to launch a “Know Your Farmer Fair” in Windham, CT. This was the launch event for the “Windham Grown Network,” a group of local farmers and producers looking to expand market opportunities by connecting with merchants, restaurants, processors, individual consumers, and institutional food service providers. The event featured 16 local producers, with over 70 attendees.
These funds made possible the event itself, which was a celebration of local food and community. Follow-up surveys with participants identified ways to promote and sustain the relationships that were cultivated at the event, resulting in the development of a “Local Buying Guide,” targeted at restaurants and merchants, introducing them to local producers, and providing guidelines and best practices for successful local sourcing.  In addition, producers requested support with marketing materials, which will be created in conjunction with their participation in the guide. A grant from the New England Grassroots Environmental Fund will support a local graphic artist to create templates for promotional materials to be used both as stand-alone promotional materials for local producers, as well as to promote their products when they are featured in local establishments.

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This proposal has helped both to celebrate and promote local producers, as well as to integrate them with local markets. This enables the benefits of local production to be invested within the community.
Grow Windham will continue this event next year, and hope to coordinate with other regions in the state to host similar events. They also will continue to expand and sustain the network of producers at the event, in order to continue to support projects that promote their establishments.
You can learn more about Grow Windham at and on Facebook.
Thank you to Sally Milius for sharing this update – we look forward to hearing more about Grow Windham!

Food Justice and the Labor Movement

Connecticut Food System Leaders and Friends,

This Thursday, May 26, from 2 to 7 pm at Connecticut College is the Connecticut Food System Alliance’s Spring Gathering – Food Justice and the Labor Movement. Thank you to those who have already RSVP’ed! If you haven’t already, you can RSVP here, or RSVP on Facebook. Please be sure to RSVP so the caterer brings enough food! Check out this page for the agenda more details about the programming for the day.

Getting to Connecticut College

Connecticut College is not easily accessible by public transit from other parts in the State and we recommend you drive or carpool. Check out the discussion section in the event on Facebook to find a carpool.

From Hartford (1 hour) and points north (Western MA, VT): I-91 South to Hartford. Take I-84 East to Route 2 East to I-395 South. Take Exit 5 (formerly Exit 78) onto Route 32 South. College entrance is 3 miles on right.

From New Haven (1 hour), Bridgeport (1 hour), and New York City (3 hours): Exit 83 from I-95 Northbound. Turn left at the end of the ramp, proceed up hill to intersection, and then take right at light onto Route 32 North. College entrance is one mile on left.

Parking and getting around campus

Here is a detailed map of campus. All the programming will be taking place in the Crozier-Williams building (“Cro”). You can park anywhere on campus but the parking lots indicated below are nearest to Cro. There will be signs posted inside Cro to help you get around.


Coffee, tea, snacks, and water will be available from 2 to 6 in the main function room, and water will be available in all the breakout rooms as well. Snacks from Fiddleheads Food Co-op include apples, sesame bars, veggie chips, naan chips, baby carrots, hummus, cookies, and salsa – many of these items are vegan/vegetarian/gluten free.

At 6, Big Belly Kelly’s BBQ of Groton will serve fiesta bean salad (vegan, gluten free), garden salad (vegan), pulled pork, fried chicken, and corn bread (vegetarian).

Learn more about the food here.

Participants are encouraged to bring their own reusable water bottle, coffee mug, leftover container, and plate/cup/fork. We are committed to cutting down on paper, plastic, water, and food waste. Bringing these items enters you into a raffle for a canvas grocery bag from Fiddleheads Food Co-op!


Childcare is provided on site to all participants. When you sign in Thursday, please also share your child’s name and your phone number so we can contact you in case your child needs you during the event.

Social Media

We have set a goal of 100 Tweets for the day! You can Tweet about what you’ve learned, discussions you’re having, and calls to action with the hashtag #EatTogetherWorkTogetherCT. You can Tweet to the Connecticut Food System Alliance at @CTFoodSystem and find us on Facebook, The Connecticut Food System Alliance.

Partner Organizations

If you’re interested in sharing flyers and resources from your nonprofit, community organization, program, etc., please feel free to bring some. We will have a dedicated resource table to share these materials with participants.

Questions? Email

Thank you and we hope to see you there!

Food Justice and the Labor Movement: Spring 2016 Gathering


Join us on May 26, from 2 to 7 pm at Connecticut College in New London for our spring gathering. The theme is “Food Justice and the Labor Movement,” intended to educate food justice advocates about the labor movement and to connect labor organizers to food justice advocates.



1:30 – 2:00 pm. Sign-in and registration

2:00 pm. Welcome from CFSA and keynote address from Mark Firla with Q&A session

2:45 pm. Labor panel featuring Unite Here, Unidad Latina en Acción, Fiddleheads Food Co-op and Restaurant Opportunities United

3:30 pm. Break

3:45 pm. Workshops:

What’s going on in New London? With FRESH New London, Ken Blair of Unite Here, and the New London County Food Policy Council

Food Chains: 30 minute version of documentary and discussion

Community Organizing with Maegan Parrott, New London Youth Affairs

Food Policy Councils collaboration – open to food policy council members and people interested in learning more about food policy councils

5:00 pm. Break / networking

5:30 pm. Welcome to people arriving after work and panel about community organizing with Isa Mujahid, Connecticut Corps, and Maegan Parrot, New London Youth Affairs.

6:00 pm. Dinner catered by Big Belly Kelly’s BBQ of Groton.

More details about the food we’re serving up here.

Gathering Grub

We are excited to partner with two local food businesses in New London County to provide free food for attendees of the Spring 2016 Gathering. We hope you’ll love it too – you can take any leftovers home!


Throughout the day, participants will be able to snack on a variety of healthy foods from Fiddleheads Food Co-op of New London.

Baby carrots, apples, tea, hummus, cookies, and granola bars will be available with plenty of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free options. We will also be serving coffee (not from Fiddleheads).

From Fiddleheads:

Fiddleheads Natural Foods Cooperative offers our community a member-owned, full-service market. We are dedicated to providing wholesome organic and natural foods and fresh local produce, emphasizing products that are cruelty-free, developed through fair trade, and with a commitment to preserving our environment. We promote healthier life choices in a friendly, service-focused atmosphere where owners are a valued and essential part of our success. Fiddleheads strives to educate our members and patrons about the benefits of organic and whole foods, and of creating a closer connection to food sources. We are committed to strengthening our community through education, social outreach programs, and food bank donations.

We honor the earth by supporting and promoting environmentally responsible products, business practices, and sustainable agriculture. Our store is located in New London, Connecticut, at 13 Broad Street, adjacent to the corner of Huntington Street and Governor Winthrop Blvd.

Fiddleheads Natural Foods Cooperative is 100% member-owned. All are welcome to join us as co-op Member-Owners! We have over 1125 Founding Member-Owners. The Member-Owner equity share is $175, and a payment plan is available. There are many benefits available to members, and we strongly encourage all in our community to join!

Like Fiddleheads Food Co-op on Facebook and get ready for delicious snacks at our Gathering!


We are proud to be working with Big Belly Kelly’s BBQ and Catering of Groton, Connecticut.

The dinner menu includes:

  • Garden salad (gluten free / vegan)
  • Fiesta bean salad (gluten free / vegan)
  • Fried chicken
  • Pulled pork
  • Corn bread (vegetarian)

From Chef Kelly Walker:

Kelly Walker is known for cooking with soul and passion. His secret recipe BBQ sauce is finger licking with a tasty twang. The smoking process is a mastering only Kelly can deliver!

He moved to Ledyard in 1999; back then, he owned Brittany’s Southern Cuisine in New London. For the past 15 years he and his wife Sandra have been cooking out of the food truck at festivals and events like the Essex Hot Steamed Jazz Festival, British by the Sea at Harkness and the Ledyard Fair.

“It’s finger-lickin’ good,” said Michelle Hinton, who remembers Kelly’s BBQ at the Ledyard fair this summer. “You’ll need a lot of napkins.”

People may be ignoring the building now but the smokey aroma wafting from the food truck soon to be parked there will lure people in by their noses.

Kelly said he learned to cook from his mother and from lots of trial and error but, he said, cooking BBQ is a labor of love.

Kelly said he smokes beef in the BBQ pit for 12 hours at least.

Like Big Belly Kelly’s on Facebook and get ready for a hearty dinner at our Gathering!


It’s important to us to reduce food waste – so bring a leftover container and you can take any uneaten food at the end of the event.

New Haven Farms


While Connecticut’s rate of Type 2 diabetes is below the national average, 8% to 9.3% respectively, this statistic doesn’t tell the whole story. As an averaged sum, this data does not reflect the vast disparities across the state. In Connecticut the diabetes rate for non-Hispanic White residents is only 6%, but for Hispanic and African-American residents that rate is above 14% each. People in households with an income under $25,000 are 2.3 times more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than people in households making over $75,000. With many low income and people of color living in urban areas, diabetes has become a rising issue for our cities.

New Haven Farms has taken a holistic approach to addressing diabetes by converting a vacant urban space into an agricultural center where healthy lifestyles can be taught and practiced.   Partnered healthcare providers, such as Fairhaven Community Health Center and Cornell Scott Health Center, can prescribe participation in the program to those who meet certain requirements that highlight them as “at-risk”. The four month program consists of hands-on urban agriculture and classes that teach food nutrition and healthy cooking skills. Through the program participants learn about the food they eat, from seed to salad, plus they get a weekly share of the produce they helped grow! The program can be conducted in both English and Spanish and also includes kid-friendly styled activities and classes. This is essential because the program’s success is seen as reliant on the fact that it is a family focused approach, our loved ones are sometimes the best inspiration for change and growth. Of course exercise is as crucial to a healthy lifestyle as a good diet, thus a total of 150 hours of aerobic exercise must be completed through the program as well. It will be exciting to see how the program grows from here. Last year they were able to double their food production space so there are no signs of slowing down.

New Haven Summer Meals

Summer vacation is usually an exciting time for children. They get to lose the stresses and responsibilities of homework, tests and getting up early. Unfortunately, for too many children in Connecticut, this also means losing one of the best sources of consistent nutritional meals. The Summer Meals program run by New Haven Public Schools attempts to correct this deficit. It began years ago when certain New Haven school cafeterias gave away free meals during the summer, but this effort seemed to only reach a fraction of those in need. Now Summer Meals operates dozens of open (for any child under 18) and closed (only children associated with the local site’s organization) sites across New Haven and Hamden, providing meals. This includes 3 “mobile sites” run out of busses and a food truck that visit multiple locations everyday throughout the summer, allowing for flexibility of areas served. This has resulted in an impressive 263,381 meals being served over the course of the program’s 7 week duration. Broken down by meals that’s:  23,310 free suppers (a 198% increase from summer 2014!), 138,131 free lunches and 101,940 free breakfasts. Many of these locations have become more than just a place to grab a needed meal but also a hub for the community to come together. Last year patrons of some of these lunch sites were able to purchase cheap produce, thanks to a partnership between Summer Meals and CT Food Bank’s GROW Truck. Despite only visiting the sites for a handful of days, more than 916 families were able to visit the GROW Truck to shop. Additionally several of the sites last summer featured family and kid oriented activities organized with the help of local AmeriCorps staff. If you would like to know more about the program you can visit their website



Inclusiveness, diversity, collaboration, shared responsibility, ability for all to choose healthy food, equity and fairness
Healthy people, healthy planet, healthy economy, healthy community.
Information, awareness, empowerment, self- advocacy, inspiration, transformation.
Accountability, openness, transparency, honesty, facts, space for complexity, sustainability, engagement, adaptability.
Fearless leaning into complexity, trust in others, resilience, experimentation, disruption, embrace difference.
Community, celebration, optimism, excitement, shared experience, cultural connection, enthusiasm, high energy, vibrancy.



We envision a Connecticut where everyone has access to safe, nutritious, culturally appropriate, and affordable food; where the food supply chain supports many vibrant and varied small businesses that provide sustainable livelihoods; where there is broad public awareness and passionate public support of a robust local food system; and where stewardship of soil, water, air and energy resources is institutionalized as an integral part of a resilient and robust regional culture of food, health and community.

In the coming decade, a just, sustainable food system will thrive in Connecticut and thereby:

Strengthen Communities
Create working relationships among food system stakeholders that are close, strong, enduring, fair, and equitable.
Improve access for all community members to an adequate, affordable, nutritious, and culturally appropriate diet.
Encourage food and agriculture-related businesses that result in stronger community economies through job creation, fair pricing for consumers and producers, and recirculation of financial capital in the community.
Improve health, reduce risk of diet-related diseases, and increase enjoyment of food among community members.
Raise Awareness
Provide the information and experiences necessary for consumers (children and adults) to understand the sources of their food, the social, environmental and health impacts of their food choices, and the role of food in a healthy community.
Raise public participation and interest in food and agriculture.
Bring about policies that promote local food production, improve access to local retail and processing markets, and support institutional procurement of local agricultural goods and services.
Clarify information in cases where obscurity, uncertainty, and equivocation prevail.
Create Sustainable Systems
Increase the application of sustainable agricultural practices that preserve and enhance natural resources and ecosystem services.
Implement energy efficient practices throughout the system.
Employ strategies that reduce and reuse resources, including waste, throughout the food system.
Build a sustainable infrastructure that ensures our goals for the food system can be met today, tomorrow and forever.

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