Junior League Launches Healthy and Accessible Local Food Program



New Program, in Collaboration with Wholesome Wave Foundation, Helps Make Local, Affordable Produce Accessible to
Mercy Learning Center Students

Fairfield, CT, October 8, 2009 – The Junior League of Eastern Fairfield County (JLEFC) (www.jlefc.org) has teamed up with Mercy Learning Center to promote good nutrition with the new “Healthy Eating” program. The pilot program will provide fresh and affordable produce to twenty-five students from the not-for-profit, Bridgeport-based Mercy Learning Center and will teach them how to cook traditional meals in more healthful ways. Students will have the opportunity to purchase fruit and vegetables at a farm stand in Bridgeport with the help of Wholesome Wave Foundation, a not-for-profit founded to make locally-grown, sustainable foods available to all.

The JLEFC will kick-off the innovative “Healthy Eating” pilot program with a field trip to the Marina Village Farmers’ Market, located in the South End of Bridgeport and a project of Wholesome Wave Foundation and the Healthy Bridgeport Alliance, on October 8th from 10:30am-12:00pm. University of Connecticut nutrition expert Heather Harrington will explain to the Mercy Learning Center students the benefits of fresh, unprepared, locally grown fruits and vegetables to increase awareness and use of these neighborhood farmers’ markets. Each student will receive $20, funded by the JLEFC, in Wholesome Wave tokens to purchase produce at the market. Any change will be returned as tokens to encourage the students to return to the market.

The second part of the “Healthy Eating” program will take place in November when Analiese Paik, founder of the Fairfield Green Food Guide, will do a hands-on cooking demonstration and tasting for the students. She will focus on ways to use nutritious alternatives for commonly-used but heavily processed ingredients.

“This year, the JLEFC’s community outreach programs focus on improving health, nutrition and literacy for women and children,” says Susan Zaveruha, President of the JLEFC. “We are so pleased to collaborate with such outstanding community organizations in this pilot program and look forward to giving other students at Mercy Learning Center a similar opportunity to access and learn the benefits of fresh, local produce.”

By providing basic literacy and life skills, the staff at Mercy Learning Center helps over five hundred functionally illiterate women in the greater Bridgeport area improve their skills and earning potential, creating a more hopeful future for themselves and their children. “Trying to eat healthy within a very strict budget is a daunting task for anyone. But for our students at Mercy Learning Center, this concept is an even bigger challenge,” said Sharon Sanford, Student Enrichment Coordinator, Mercy Learning Center. “The Junior League’s initiative empowers our women to take steps to provide more nutritious meals for themselves and their families.”

Analiese Paik is on a mission to bring fresh, local and sustainable food to consumers of Fairfield County. Her online Fairfield Green Food Guide includes a Buying Guide and searchable database for local green food resources, a blog and a calendar of green food events.

“The trend towards buying and eating processed food is shifting towards eating fresh and local but this is generally not an easy feat to accomplish for low-income families,” says Analiese Paik, founder, Fairfield Green Food Guide. “When the Junior League presented an opportunity to educate the Mercy Learning Center students about healthier meal options, I immediately thought of Wholesome Wave’s Park City Harvest farm stands as a way to bring local, affordable produce to these women. This program represents local to its core: local community organizations using local resources to help local residents, and I am excited to be a part of it.”

Founded by chef and food policy advocate Michel Nischan to make locally grown, healthy sustainable foods available to all communities, Wholesome Wave Foundation runs three “farm-to-community” programs, including the Park City Harvest farm stands in Bridgeport, as part of its nationwide “Nourishing Neighborhoods” campaign.

“Through vegetable stands in various Bridgeport neighborhoods, Wholesome Wave strives to provide the city’s residents with affordable, healthy and convenient alternatives to conventional food shopping, while encouraging easy preparation of healthy, farm fresh foods at home,” says Michel Nischan, President and CEO, Wholesome Wave Foundation. “Mercy Learning Center’s students live and work in the heart of a historically excluded community but through the Junior League’s new program, we hope to positively impact their families’ health and wellness and help prevent a deepening health crisis.”

Made possible by a contribution from the Fairfield County Community Foundation (FCCF), Wholesome Wave Foundation recently purchased a refrigerated truck for food storage, augmenting its current farmers’ markets by making fresh, local and affordable produce even more accessible for Bridgeport residents. FCCF provides philanthropic advisory services to individual donors and helps to connect them with local causes in their own backyard.

“When we learned about the impressive work of Wholesome Wave Foundation in Bridgeport, we shared its story with a donor who has an interest in bringing fresh farm produce to cities,” said Karen R. Brown, vice president of programs, FCCF. “The donor ultimately recommended a generous $25,000 grant to be presented to Wholesome Wave Foundation for its needs for a refrigerated truck. FCCF was thrilled to connect this donor with Wholesome Wave Foundation and we are excited to see how the truck has already been put to great use, especially for the ability to bring local and affordable produce to the students of Mercy Learning Center.”

To learn more about the Junior League and its programs, please visit www.jlefc.org.


The Junior League of Eastern Fairfield County (JLEFC) is an organization of women committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women, and improving communities through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers. Its purpose is exclusively educational and charitable. Communities represented by the JLEFC include Bridgeport, Easton, Fairfield, Monroe, Newtown, Redding, Shelton, Southport, Stratford, Trumbull, Weston and Westport. The Junior League of Eastern Fairfield County is part of the Association of Junior Leagues International (AJLI) which has developed the award-winning Kids in the Kitchen program to combat childhood obesity through education about healthy eating and exercise. For additional information, including membership and volunteer opportunities, please visit www.jlefc.org.


Mercy Learning Center of Bridgeport, Inc. provides basic literacy and life skills training to low income women using a holistic approach within a compassionate, supportive environment. All women are welcome without regard for race, religion, color, creed, sexual orientation or national origin. Learn more about Mercy Learning Center at www.mercylearningcenter.org.


Analiese Paik, Founder of the Fairfield Green Food Guide, LLC, is a local/sustainable food advocate, avid organic gardener and home cook. Recognizing an opportunity to marry her love of food, wine and gardening with her business and marketing expertise, Analiese launched fairfieldgreenfoodguide.com in 2009. The website features a blog, searchable database of green food resources, event calendar and e-newsletter subscription to help consumers source fresh, local and sustainable food in Fairfield County. She partnered in August with Pequot Library to host Connecticut’s first large community screening of the documentary food film FRESH, after which guests enjoyed a panel discussion by leaders in the local/sustainable food movement and an exhibition of area resources including farms, farm stands, farmers’ markets, school gardens, organic restaurants and not-for profits organizations. Analiese is a member of Slow Food USA and the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Connecticut.

About Wholesome Wave Foundation

Michel Nischan, President/CEO of Wholesome Wave Foundation, is chef/author/policy advocate and a leader in the sustainable food movement. He founded Wholesome Wave Foundation – with seed funding from the Betsy and Jesse Fink Foundation – in an effort to make locally grown, sustainable foods available to all. Nischan is a 2008 James Beard Foundation Award winner for his work on the PBS series, Victory Garden and author of two best-selling cookbooks – Taste Pure and Simple; Chronicle Books 2003 (a Beard award winner in 2004) and Homegrown Pure and Simple; Chronicle Books 2005. He serves on the boards of the Amazon Conservation Team, the James Beard Foundation and Harvard’s Center for Health and the Global Environment. Learn more about Wholesome Wave Foundation at www.wholesomewave.org.


Heather is an assistant extension instructor in the Department of Allied Health Sciences at the University of Connecticut. The primary role of this position is to function as a public health nutritionist, reaching individuals of economic disadvantage with effective nutrition education program to improve dietary quality commensurate with the State Nutrition Education Plan. The secondary and complimentary role is to function as a preceptor for dietetics students in their community nutrition supervised practice working on this nutrition education plan. A Connecticut native, Heather attended the University of Connecticut and graduated with a B.S. degree in Nutritional Science meeting the didactic requirements in May 2005. She completed a 50 week Dietetic Internship at Yale New Haven Hospital in August 2006. She recently graduated from the Masters in Allied Health Sciences program in August 2008.

PR Contact, JLEFC

Charlotte Vinci

Cell: 843.271.7755

Email: charvinci@yahoo.com

PR Contact, Wholesome Wave Foundation

Diane Stefani

Direct: 212.255.8224

Email: diane@rosengrouppr.com

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