Shared from the 7/15/2021 Darien Times eEdition

Darien teens tackle food insecurity with healthy eating, organic farming

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Bruno Coppé and Kyle Bloomer are helping families learn the benefits of healthy eating through their newly formed initiative, Organic Barrow.

Local teens Bruno Coppe and Kyle Bloomer spent the early months of the pandemic as volunteers, helping those suffering from food insecurity get necessary nourishment.

While the pair was pleased to aid those in need, what they learned was that most of the food being distributed to those families was mainly canned and processed. That was when they asked themselves: “Wouldn’t it be great if these families could grow their own products in the convenience of their home, regardless of the space?”

From there, Organic Barrow was born.

The Darien High seniors said Organic Barrow is a new, student-run initiative, aimed at educating members of the community about the benefits of healthy eating and organic farming.

“By providing families with a mobile wheelbarrow where they can grow their own produce, this program tackles the problems of food insecurity, malnutrition, and food’s carbon footprint,” Coppe said.

To date, Organic Barrow has raised more than $6,380 and engages with The Gardener’s Center and Florist in Darien who, the pair said, provided their expertise, patronage and trust to this new service.

Coppe said the pair have been busy buying supplies, assembling the carts, planting a mix of vegetables and fruits, and distributing them to families throughout Stamford, Norwalk and Darien.

“These families will take care of the barrows during the summer months,” Coppe said, “and will get to experience healthy, organic products and hopefully will get motivated to continue to grow their own food in the future.”

Coppe and Bloomer spent time volunteering with Person-to-Person and Building One Community. Coppe has also been teaching English to immigrants, mostly Hispanic, at B1C since his freshman year.

“Because of my exposure to their culture, I determined that having fresh and natural foods is important to them,” Coppe said.

“We realized that during the pandemic, many nonprofits focused on food insecurity,” he added. “Although canned and processed food is more convenient and easier to distribute, we thought more about the healthy alternative needs. We found a problem in the nearby communities and hoped to bring a new solution.”

The pair built the carts, assembled them with soil, planted, and then drove to the clients’ houses to drop them off. They delivered 20 wheelbarrows to 20 different families throughout June.

“The Darien Gardener’s Center gave us good advice on which plants to buy,” Coppe said. “They thought our idea was great and they wanted to help out. B1C also helped us out. They allowed us to drop off flyers there and they linked us to some host families.”

Coppe said the host families supported the idea and “each and every one of them are extremely grateful. The majority of our clients live in Stamford. When we gave them the wheelbarrow, we also gave them a directions sheet. ... One of the only things we ask from them is to send us photos every week if they can. This way, we make sure that they are taking care of the cart, and this gives us a progress check.”

One of the biggest challenges, he said, was finding host families for the carts. The pair tried to solicit families by dropping off flyers at B1C.

“With this, we had a few families, but not as much as we desired for,” Coppe said. “Then, I had the idea to ask the people to whom we dropped them off to if they knew anybody. With this method of mouth to mouth, we were able to reach many more people.”

“The people were so happy with their cart that they recommended them to their neighbors and friends,” Coppe added.

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