Steering Partner Organizations: Profiles
For more than 117 years, Backus Hospital has provided quality healthcare to the residents of eastern Connecticut. The 213-bed, not-for-profit, acute care community Hospital is the primary source of health services for nearly a quarter-million people. Since its founding in 1893, Backus Hospital has continually expanded, providing new programs and services and forming strategic alliances with other healthcare organizations and providers. Backus operates the only trauma center east of the Connecticut River, and is the only regional facility with a hangar for LIFE STAR, Hartford Hospital's air medical transport helicopter.
Backus has a long history of positive collaborative relationships with United Way of Southeastern Connecticut. David A. Whitehead, the President and Chief Executive Officer of Backus, has served as United Way Board Chair, and also as campaign chair. Keith Fontaine, the Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer, is keenly interested in the formation of a Food Policy Council and views its potential as a coordination point for action on a complex set of problems. Mr. Fontaine has been heavily involved in community activities, having served as Chair of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut, a Director of United Way of Southeastern CT, and in leadership capacities on many other not-for-profit boards. He recently accepted nomination as Chair Elect of our United Way Board of Directors.
In 2010, Backus launched several initiatives to combat obesity. These include a new Weight Loss Center, surgical options such as bariatric Lap-Band procedures with a specially trained surgeon, education and counseling sessions, and a pilot program called Enjoy LIFE (Lifelong Investment in Fitness and Exercise), which it funded with a $10,000 grant through a municipal recreation department. (William W. Backus Hospital)
Established in 1912, Lawrence & Memorial Hospital has been serving the health needs of this region for nearly 100 years. A non-profit, general, acute care, private hospital, L&M, with a license for 280 beds, is the region’s largest hospital. L&M’s primary service area includes 10 towns along the Connecticut shoreline between Rhode Island and the Connecticut River, as well as inland communities as far as Montville.
Among other capabilities, Lawrence & Memorial Hospital is home to the area’s only Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. L&M is also the only regional hospital that offers emergency angioplasty treatment. This procedure is offered through the hospital’s affiliation with Yale New Haven Hospital.
During it’s nearly 100 years of service to the community, L&M has constantly evolved its offerings to meet the needs of those who live and work within its service area. In fact, L&M is the only hospital in the area to offer a pediatric weight management program. The Healthy Eating and Lifestyles Program (HELP) for Kids actively involves kids – and parents – in a range of learning and physical activities to increase their knowledge of healthy eating, increase physical fitness and improve self esteem.
“Our mission at L&M is a simple one – to improve the health of our region,” said Bill Stanley, vice president of development and community relations. “A key part of that goal is building partnerships. By working with the United Way and other key partners in the area, we achieve this goal every day.”
The United Way of Southeastern Connecticut raises funds for 63 programs in 28 partner agencies and also funds its own direct services: Project Warm-up, and the Gemma E. Moran United Way/Labor Food Center. Its mission is “to change our community by helping people in need through responsible use of donations.” In 1962, the United Fund of Norwich and the Community Chest of Groton, New London and Waterford merged to form United Community Services of Southeastern Connecticut, Inc. The organization studied the county’s needs and ways to meet those needs through volunteers and agencies and then worked to raise the money to support those agencies.
In 1975, the organization changed its name to United Way of Southeastern Connecticut and raised nearly $1 million each year to support the community. In 1988, it was recognized that area shelters, pantries, soup kitchens and childcare centers needed a central program to address the food needs of the area. As a result, the United Way Labor Department Food Center was initiated.
Today, the food center, known as the Gemma E. Moran United Way/Labor Food Center, is well known in the region and supports 94 feeding sites. In 2009, United Way raised more than $6.5 million to address health and human services needs in New London County and support partner programs and initiatives through an allocations process based on outcomes. Priority areas for funding are currently:
- Community wellness
- Thriving children
- basic needs
- Promoting independence
President and CEO Virginia L. Mason is committed to, and experienced with, collaboration across large and diverse groups of stakeholders, to develop community strategy and action. The Board of the United Way is made up of many active and involved local leaders. (United Way)
The Gemma E. Moran United Way/Labor Food Center distributes over 1.7 million pounds of food annually to 94 program sites at no cost to those in need. Over 2 million pounds of food was distributed in 2010. Gemma E. Moran, founding director, helped United Way and local labor unions join together to create the food bank that bears her name. Since 1999, the organization has grown in its ability to support much of its own budget through grants and donations, and to supply food to growing numbers of food sites across the county. The director of the Food Center is a vice-president of the United Way of Southeastern Connecticut and reports to the President and CEO. The Food Center has an advisory committee/board which is currently working on a new vision for the future. Three members of the Food Center Advisory Board also serve on the United Way of Southeastern Connecticut Board of Directors. Two members are serving on the expanded United Way Board Development and Governance committee.
Three years ago, Paul Jakoboski and Sheryl Torr-Brown, PhD, initiated the Food Center’s Vision Committee. Sheryl is currently leading the group in an examination of the sociology, physiology and psychology influences on basic human needs for food and health, through the lenses of politics, ethics, and social justice.
In its first year, the Committee interviewed recipients of food pantries and soup kitchens across New London County to gain an understanding of how people use the services and how they could be improved. As a result of the interviews the Vision Committee established three strategic areas for focus and action. These were food access, community building, and better nutrition for the food insecure. Subsequent actions were to establish client choice across the majority of food outlets using Food Center food, and the development of a blueprint and an architectural plan for a community food preservation kitchen to be housed at the Food Center in New London. The Food Center is currently seeking funding to implement the food preservation kitchen.
The new vision for the future of food security in New London County includes improving access to nutritional choices while strengthening communities across the region. The Vision Committee is currently mapping demographics against food access and transportation across the county. Activities in 2011 will include an assessment of the optimal distribution of food outlets across the county and may include the creation of a proposal for up to three large access points that have longer and more consistent opening times than the current smaller outlets, as well as mobile units that penetrate areas not adequately covered by public transport.
The vision also includes the development of mechanisms to increase the availability of fresh foods to recipients of Food Center food, and to more broadly improve nutrition and reduce food waste in New London County, regardless of socioeconomic status. Further research will be conducted with clients to determine how they eat, and how they make food choices at the food pantry, or the supermarket.
The Vision Committee is proposing a conference in 2011 as a forum to discuss obesity, nutrition, and the health of the community, and to raise awareness of food insecurity and the need for nutrition across the county.
Dr. Torr-Brown, who is a member of the Food Center advisory board, served as head of Science and Technology at Pfizer, Inc. in New London. In that position at Pfizer, she led a company-wide Futures Intelligence Network which enabled future trends to be incorporated into day to day strategy and operations across several divisions of the Pfizer pharmaceutical business. She is now a health innovation consultant with an interest in patient-centered healthcare and the psychology of choice. She has a strong interest in obesity and its correlation to poverty. She is developing a multi-causal approach to the potential for creating a sustainable improvement in food security and a reduction in obesity across the area.
According to a U.S. Census Bureau study, more than 19,000 people in southeastern Connecticut are living below the poverty level. Last year, the Food Center distributed more than 1.7 million pounds of food through more than 90 free food programs which in turn helped provide meals and snacks, at no cost, to those in need throughout New London County. The Food Center is an official Partner Distribution Organization (PDO). This status ensures a partnership with the Connecticut Food Bank in East Haven, the largest food bank in the state, to provide a product allocation based on poverty levels as determined by the census.
In 1999, the Gemma E. Moran United Way/Labor Food Center celebrated a grand re-opening at its current location at 374 Broad Street in New London. The Food Center's location was made possible by a grant from the state, thanks to the lobbying efforts of Representatives Wade Hyslop, Jr., Andrea Stillman, Nancy De Marinis, Lenny Winkler and Senator Melodie Peters who is currently serving as Campaign Co-Chair of United Way. It was refurbished by skilled union volunteers of the Metal Trades Council, Southeastern Connecticut Central Labor Council, MDA-United Auto Workers Local 571, Teamsters Union Local 493 and Norwich-New London Building and Construction Trades Council, in partnership with United Way. Electric Boat provided the paint for the entire facility. In July 2001 Dominion Nuclear/Millstone Power Station made a generous donation of $100,000 for a new roof at the Food Center.
The Food Center represents a unique partnership between United Way and organized labor. Many food drives are managed and successful as a result of companies and organizations which also support United Way fundraising. The organization is extremely careful with funds and runs with 3.5 FTE staff members and many volunteers. It has developed an innovative approach to nutrition and assigns nutritional value to foods being donated for ease of use by the feeding sites. Local grocery stores are continuously supportive of the Food Center. It will serve as the organizing center of the formation of a Food Policy Council.
This concept paper also has been developed as a result of the vision of Paul Jakoboski, who was, until late 2011, the Director of the Gemma Moran United Way/Labor Food Center. Paul is currently battling cancer. Despite his health condition, Mr. Jakoboski has committed his enthusiasm and his 10 years of experience to the effort. (Gemma E. Moran United Way/Labor Food Center) and will review materials and discuss the work whenever possible.
The Food Center has an active advisory board, many volunteers and a strong network of feeding sites which meet with the Food Center regularly. Acting director, Katherine Sebastian Dring has worked in agency relations and grant procurement for the Gemma E. Moran United Way/ Labor Food Center, since 2005. Prior to coming to United Way Katherine served as Grant and Strategic Development Advisor for a Native American tribe in the areas of health and human services, and natural and historical resource preservation. She also worked for a federal court on the central legal staff and has formal education and experience in early childhood education and law.
Since 2004, F.R.E.S.H. has been working on transforming the food system of greater New London, from the belief that public health, social justice and ecological sustainability are inextricably linked. F.R.E.S.H. programs include intensive summer and year-round employment and leadership training of New London teens, garden-based education programs for children, community gardens, the F.R.E.S.H. Farm, marketing and donation of fresh produce and more. F.R.E.S.H.is located at the Gemma E. Moran United Way/Labor Food Center and receives in-kind office space at the Food Center from the United Way of Southeastern Connecticut.
The work of F.R.E.S.H. to encourage and empower broad participation in the transformation of the food system from “what it is to what it ought to be: healthy, just, sustainable, accessible, productive, and beautiful,” has resulted in practical agricultural projects which include enterprises from “seed to plate.” Particularly known for their work with youth involvement in New London, the F.R.E.S.H. organization will be involved in the Food Policy Council formation. (F.R.E.S.H. New London). It is anticipated that the F.R.E.S.H. experience will be critical to informing the work of the emerging FPC. The executive director of F.R.E.S.H. will be invite to join the organizing and founding group.
The Role of Organized Labor in the Formation of a Regional Food Policy Council.
The Gemma E. Moran United Way/Labor Food Center began because of the efforts of organized labor. In 1988, Gemma Moran was the AFL-CIO Community Services Liaison for the United Way. She asked for a United Way grant to support the efforts of a food pantry which had been started in a garage by AFL-CIO Community Services and the Metal Trades Council. Ms. Moran and the labor unions in the community contacted then State Senator Melodie Peters who was then President of the Central Labor Council. Senator Peters arranged a meeting with the governor of Connecticut, who gave the United Way a building for $1.00 a year. Gemma Moran, had offices at the United Way and at the Food Center. Sara Chaney, who was a member of Office and Professionals Employees Union, was hired by the United Way to assure that those who needed food were assisted and that the Food Center was open. The first Food Center was at Uncas on the Thames and needed repair and refurbishing. Members of organized labor went in and did all the work on the interior of the building. Whenever there was a need for transportation, the Teamsters Union got a tractor trailer truck and voluntarily transported the food and supplies. Once the program was affiliated with the Connecticut Food Bank, the Teamsters drove to New Haven regularly to pick up the food. Eventually Melodie Peters was able to procure the current building for the United Way. Organized labor volunteers again painted and refurbished the building. To this day, there are labor volunteers at the Center every week. For 18 years, the Food Center has been supported by organized labor, supporting anyone in need of food, whether a union member or not.
“Organized labor has its finger on the pulse of the community” because of layoffs and because they are organized to support the under-or-unemployed. The partnership between labor and the United Way is based on organized labor’s commitment to the community and the needs of its citizens. Union members are first and foremost the citizens of their community, caring about the conditions which impact on others. They want to be a part of assuring that our region is a good place to live, work, raise a family, and retire. The Food Center was and has been an organized labor commitment. Organized labor is also proactive about advocacy and has connections to policy at every level of government. As a food policy council evolves in Southeastern Connecticut, those who have been concerned about food scarcity or insecurity for the last 25 years (and before) will be a vital and ongoing source of knowledge, experience, and commitment.
Sharon Peccini, the AFL-CIO labor liaison to the United Way, works with organized labor to assure continuous contributions of food to the Food Center. The largest food drive in the United States is done by the Letter Carriers Union. That drive is Southeastern Connecticut’s largest food drive. Union members and the Food Center pick up food from Stop and Shop weekly. They also pick up food from Wal-Mart and Target. Electric Boat has had a “one-can-a-month-drive” for years. The Teamsters go with trucks to pick up two and three trailer loads at a time from the Casino’s big food shows when they are being broken down. They have 30-50 volunteers available to load the trucks with the foods being shown to the retail trade. Food shows are regular events at both southeastern Connecticut casinos.
The Metal Trades Council and the Marine Draftsmen Association Food Locker at the Machinists Union hall has a food locker which receives regular food from the Food Center. Working families can pick up food and in unusual cases where they cannot pick it up, it can be delivered to the family’s home. As the Food Policy Council develops its plan of work, experienced Union leaders like Melodie Peters who has been involved since the beginning will continue to support the needs of the community by going beyond the Food Center and into the action-orientation of a history of developing legislation and programs like the Food Center which help people who work. Unions support the health needs of their members and in getting good health care. They are concerned about obesity, safety and health. They believe in health care of their employees.
The formation of a Food Policy Council is a next step which brings the Food Center to another level through the formation of active group of organizations and interested citizens who want to assure that the needs of people are met and that an understanding of food insecurity and conditions for people in the area remains a core area of focus for organized labor.
TVCCA is a private, non-profit Community Action Agency, which was incorporated in 1965. It is a well-recognized community leader and partner in advocating for and meeting health and human service needs of the region. The mission of TVCCA is to improve the overall well being of individuals and families in need within the service area by: fostering self-esteem, respect, independence, growth, self-sufficiency, and confidence; promoting community awareness, input and ownership of societal problems; and providing a broad spectrum of comprehensive, quality services. They work diligently at developing positive, professional relationships with area municipalities, churches, educational institutions, private service providers, senior centers, businesses, and federal and state agencies.
The organization has been providing social services to the regions economically and otherwise disadvantaged citizens for 45 years. Twenty-eight programs currently reach approximately 24,000 eligible clients annually. TVCCA is well recognized as a community leader in advocating for and meeting the needs of the region’s poor.
Deborah Monahan, Executive Director of TVCCA is a known community leader with a long track record of leadership in efforts to bring about collaboration on behalf of those with needs in the region. (TVCCA)
As previously noted, one of TVCCA’s core programming competencies is in Food and Nutrition programs. TVCCA currently administers the following nutrition programs: since 1975, WIC; since 1974, Senior Nutrition Program funded through Title III-C of the Older American Act serving both the Café program providing meals at the senior centers and the more commonly known Meals on Wheels, CACFP (Child and Adult Care Food Program funded through USDA) providing meals to the early child care and education programs operated by the agency including Head Start and Little Learners. The agency also operates a family shelter where meals are served under CACFP guidelines.
TVCCA’s strength in Nutrition Services begins with the staff that direct and oversee the programs. The Directors have degrees in Nutrition and Food Service Management/ Executive Chef with a minimum of 25 years of experience in Nutrition and Food programs. These programs are staffed with Registered Dieticians, Nutritionists, and Dietetic Technicians. Support staff continuously attend in-service training and receive educational guidance to aid in providing the services.
TVCCA operates a central kitchen facility, where meals that are provided to the Senior Nutrition program, early childhood centers and the shelter, are prepped and cooked. Staffed by the Director and support staff consisting of an Executive Sous Chef, Chefs, and line Cooks. TVCCA central kitchen in addition provides catering of food services to a limited amount of outside contracts.