Hamden Community Center's Garden Feeds Food Pantry

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The food pantry at the Keefe Community Center has continued to offer food services to those who need it, especially over the last six months as they say the number of people showing up has increased.

“We used to see about 200 families a month at the food bank and it went up to over 500 a month so we were really scrambling,” said Adam Sendroff, community development manager for the town of Hamden.

That number has stayed steady at 500 families in the Hamden area with a few increases after the recent severe weather. Keeping up with demand is something Sharon Jones is proud of.

“We have been able to meet the needs of all the clients that come to our door,” said Sharon C. Jones of the Keefe Community Center. “Whether it be for food, diapers, utilities or rent.”

By helping in all of those ways, it’s a true community center. A place where people can get food and diapers and find help for a new start.

“If you come in for some kind of assistance, you can take a financial empowerment class, or you can take a class at adult ed,” said Sendroff.

And the center is innovative. The center’s daycare group is picking green beans, eggplant, green peppers, tomatoes and beets. It’s all fresh produce from the community garden for the food pantry.

“We’ve been trying to make the foodbank healthier to fight health disparities over the last few years, so the garden really fits into that as well,” said Sendroff.

The garden is a partnership between Hamden, Quinnipiac University and the United Way of Greater New Haven. And it’s cared for with tools made from guns that were turned in during a gun buyback event in Hamden back in February.

Sean Duffy of Quinnipiac University is working with the community and university students to make this a joint effort that will help educate university and daycare students alike.

It could also encourage residents to make gardens at home. The project team hopes to one day offer the supplies to neighbors.

“The opportunity to plant, get out and have a community garden, and really have residents be able to come and be inspired,” Aly Fox said of the impact the garden is having. Fox is the vice president for community impact at the United Way of Greater New Haven.

“This is absolutely amazing. I’m so happy that this community is doing something to show that nature is beautiful,” said Brenda Campbell, who lives near the Keefe Community Center. “It’s just so many things that they are doing for the community.”

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, the future need is uncertain but their plan to serve Hamden remains the same.

“It’s a fantastic feeling,” said Jones. “And to know that giving back to people who are grateful to have us. It’s a great feeling.”

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