Aug 29, 2013
03:22 PMConnecticut Today
New Farm-to-Table Café at Hartford Public Library Is Also a Jobs Initiative
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All this takes place, quite purposefully, in the challenged Frog Hollow neighborhood of Hartford. (Notably, the “mission-driven partners” of Wheaton’s organization include the acclaimed restaurant Firebox, located at Billings Forge, and the Apartments at Billings Forge, a mixed income housing complex.)
Frog Hollow is the host neighborhood because it is pocket of great need, and where the biggest difference can be made. On its website, Billings Forge Community Works explains that by saying, in part, “Hartford is the poorest city in one of the wealthiest states in the country. The median household income in Connecticut is $65,521; in Hartford it is $27,051, and in Frog Hollow, $17,333.”
More than 79 percent of children in Frog Hollow live in single parent households, the site says, 90 percent of which are headed by single mothers. The child poverty rate in Frog Hollow is 57.5 percent—higher than Hartford’s, which, at 41.3 percent overall, is not only the highest in Connecticut but said to be the second highest in the country for cities of 100,000, exceeded only by Brownsville, Tex.
And at 16 percent, Frog Hollow has the highest unemployment rate in a state where the overall rate was half of that, 8.1 percent in July.
With Wheaton helping to combat the problems by leading a series of innovative and integrated programs centered on the type of empowering ethos that underlies something like farm-to-table cuisine, it’s no wonder that she got the loudest and most sustained applause when she stepped up to the podium to speak Wednesday—and no wonder that the spinoff Kitchen at Hartford Public Library is occasioning such a buzz.
“Providing hands-on job training and assisting city residents with securing permanent employment opportunities are critical to improving the quality of life for those who live in Hartford,” Poland and Wheaton said jointly in remarks on an event handout. “With Kitchen at Hartford Public Library we are also able to offer the community an opportunity to eat well while doing good and show support for those who are gaining valuable skills and work experience through our programs.”
“Bringing Billings Forge Community Works job training program under the same roof as the library’s CT Works @HPL initiative, a partnership with Capital Workforce Partners, was a natural way to offer Hartford residents increased access to job training, placement opportunities, skill development programming and other library resources,” Poland said. “We are delighted to launch this partnership by opening Kitchen at Hartford Public Library and look forward to growing our collaboration for the benefit of our customers.”
“This is an incredible moment,” Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra said at Wednesday’s event, calling it an example of seizing “one opportunity at a time to make our city a much greater place.”