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

2022 Grant Amount: $5,000

The Family Room has supported families by providing food for many years. This has been done not only by providing nutritious meals at programs for families, but also by providing fresh produce and other necessary goods for participants to take home.  During the pandemic, we delivered large boxes of food containing grains, fruits, vegetables, oil, sugar, and other necessary cooking foods to 150 families per week. As we continue to provide healthy meals, our garden program allows families to grow their own food with a variety of supports.  We provide plants, starters, compost, hay, and childcare while parents work in the garden. We also provide transportation to the garden for families who may not otherwise be able to get there, as there is no public transportation to the Ethan Allen Homestead. 

We have held workshops organized and facilitated by our partners from WIC and the Vermont Community Garden Network. The workshops have included salsa and tortilla making, pesto that helps the kids enjoy grinding herbs with mortar and pestle, and other ways to make food. The Vermont Foodbank has also done workshops on familiarizing families with cooking different food and providing recipes for local food crops. In addition, volunteers come help weed, plant, and water gardens with or for families. The space is granted to us by the Winooski Valley Park District. Red Wagon Plants of Hinesburg continues to gift us with free plants to give away, as well. Other programming components include nature walks, singing & playing with children, building community, getting families outside, summer safety workshops, yoga, and dancing. 

There are various components of this program that are beneficial for families. Many of our families come from immigrant backgrounds and the ability for them to grow their own food while being supported by the community helps to build a culture that is both healthy and familiar. The food grown by the families we serve is fresh, organic, and nutritious. Growing the food supports their mental health as well. Many families live in spaces where they would not be able to grow their own food due to living in apartment buildings or not having the means to grow their own food. This applies to most of our families, not just immigrants and refugees.  This program offers some families who have never gardened before the opportunity to learn how to start their own and learn from others.  Not only are they growing their own food, but they are saving money and knowing where their food is coming from. Learning how to prepare food from surplus crops also helps families stretch their budgets.  For many of us, if we don’t know how to cook or prepare a particular kind of food, we may throw it away or not access it.  Families also share food with each other. The plots aren’t very big, so there are some limitations as to how much and how many foods a family can grow. Also, the families who come to our program have access to other supports, including food and resources.  Each program is a doorway leading to more support for the whole family.