The Janet S. Munt Family Room: Family Play at the Garden (Ethan Allen Homestead)

2023 Update:

From May - September 2023, The Family Room offered our largest, and most expensive, program, “Family Play” at the Garden (Ethan Allen Homestead). There are various components to Family Play at the Gardens that have benefits for families. Many of our families come from immigrant backgrounds, so growing their own food and being supported by the community and our partners and supports a way of living and connecting that is familiar from their own cultures.

In addition to the fresh, organic, and nutritious foods, growing fresh food supports families’ mental health as well. Many families live in spaces such as apartment buildings where they wouldn’t be able to grow their own food, have limited access to the outdoors, or they don’t have the means or supports to grow their own food. This applies to many of our families, not just immigrants and refugees. Some families who have never gardened before, and they enjoy learning how to start one and they learn about growing from other families.

In addition, they are saving money and understanding where their food is coming from. Learning how to prepare food from surplus crops helps families stretch their budgets. For many of us, when we don’t know how to cook or prepare a food, we may throw it away or not access it. Families also share food with each other. Family Play at the Gardens also acts as a gateway to other programming and wrap-around services. As staff get to know families, it might become clear that they could benefit from other Family Room programs, or staff might realize the family is experiencing food insecurity and help them get SNAP benefits, or identify developmental concerns with children and work with parents to refer them to another agency with a warm handoff. The trust that builds up leads to many other roads of support.

As we’ve done for many years, The Family Room provided healthy meals and our garden program gave families the opportunity to grow their own food with a variety of supports. We provided plants, starters, compost, hay, childcare while parents work in the garden, and engaging outdoor activities (see below). We also provided transportation from our Allen Street location to the garden for families who couldn’t otherwise get there because there is no public transportation to the Ethan Allen Homestead.