Have you harvested any cherry tomatoes from our snack beds? Maybe you’ve seen the brightly colored signs that read: Harvest Me! ¡Coséchame! while walking down Broad St. Snack Beds are a part of our Edible New London initiative, a larger food justice project for the New London area. In the most basic terms, snack beds are raised beds for the public to harvest from, cared for by FRESH staff, youth and volunteers. And they grow produce snacks (like strawberries, snap peas and cherry tomatoes).
To help everyone find this free food, we have created an interactive map that lists all of the snack bed sites and their locations. Click on any of the Edible New London logos on the map to find a snack bed near your neighborhood. Remember that crops planted in snack beds will change seasonally!
The past few growing seasons, FRESH has been working with fellow community members to develop a five year agricultural plan for New London. These snack beds are a direct result of the Five Year Plan. The first plot of snack beds were installed during the 2019 summer season at Ledge Light Health District on Broad St. LLHD took out their private hedge and flattened the lawn to make room for nine garden beds built by FRESH youth, staff and volunteers. These snack beds have been made possible by a partnership with LLHD who funded the materials and waters the beds. Luckily, their property also includes three mature apple trees and blackberry bushes.
That summer, we also worked with the Caring for Creation Committee at Saint James Episcopal to build two snack beds in front of the Community Meal Center, the local soup kitchen. The Center serves the community dinners every weekday evening and the last two Saturdays of the month. These beds were also the result of a combined effort! The CCC raised the money to pay for materials and staff at the Community Meal Center water the beds. FRESH also installed six snack beds that line the sidewalk at the Ledyard St Community Garden. The beds were built by FRESH staff, youth members and volunteers and are cared for by staff. You can also find snack beds at our main garden on Mercer St and at McDonald Park.
So, why snack beds? Snack beds are an effort to change the food landscape of New London! Did you know that only about 5% of the land in New England produces food for almost 15 million people. It is estimated that 90% of our food comes from outside the region (A New England Food Vision 2014). Therefore, New England relies heavily on the global food system to import produce, meat and more which creates a vulnerable food system. This food system model affects many different parts of our community. The long distances traveled between farm, packaging, distribution, and consumption sites contribute to high greenhouse gas emissions. The lack of green spaces in urban areas is another point of concern. As one of our community gardeners put it: “Why not grow food wherever we can grow food?” The low percentage of locally produced food also creates confusion around where our food comes from. However, community gardening and public snacks beds are part of the process to achieving community food sovereignty. 100% of FRESH community gardens who completed our 2018 survey agreed that community gardening made them less dependent on packaged foods. By growing locally, we can regain control of our food system and work to establish community food security.
FRESH would be remiss if we did not recognize the Mashantucket Pequots, Eastern Pequots, Mohegans, and other nations who are indigenous to Nameag, now called New London. The violent loss of land through colonization is crucial part of the food justice movement that needs to be addressed.
Feeling inspired? We hope so! If you would like to be a part of this initiative, you can sponsor a snack bed either through raising money for materials or volunteering to cultivate and maintain a bed; or simply pick the food and enjoy it!