In the Eagle River Valley of Eagle County, Colorado, non-profit New Roots CO serves as the area operator for Fresh Food Connect. The Fresh Food Connect app connects local gardeners with food donation sites and allows gardeners to record their donations. Zip codes that are active Fresh Food Connect locations have a designated local organization that serves as that area's operator, doing the on the ground coordination for the program.
New Roots CO was founded in 2018 by a few passionate residents who saw a need for more equitable access to healthy and sustainable food. Their vision is ‘to cultivate a community where every individual in the Eagle River Valley has access to local, nourishing, and sustainable food resources.’ Through the years they have worked towards this goal by creating a Foodshed map, holding Food Summits to connect people from all the different areas of the food system, hosting a podcast covering topics from growing food to food policy, teaching gardening classes at community gardens, and most recently, running the community garden at the local Colorado Mountain College. New Roots CO have been champions for local food donations in the valley and have facilitated the donation of over 10,000 lbs of produce to hunger relief organizations since 2019 through large gleaning events and small donations from local gardeners.
New Roots CO started their Garden Guardians program in 2020 where they grow food for hunger relief organizations in plots at several community gardens. The spring of 2020 also saw the start of Colorado State University Extension’s Grow & Give program which aims to provide all the information gardeners need to have a bountiful harvest and connect backyard and community gardens to food donation sites across Colorado. In partnership with Grow & Give, New Roots CO encourages their community gardeners to donate their excess food.
‘The small donations are certainly making a difference and add extra flavor and nutrition to meals. The food also inspires a feeling of community and connectivity with our valley as a home. "Lanny Ellis, Executive Director, New Roots CO
Evan ‘Lanny’ Ellis, the Executive Director for New Roots CO says ‘Our gardeners at the CMC community garden are proud to donate their surplus foods. One of my gardeners is relieved to have a place to donate all his extra lettuce heads. Every time we deliver food from the garden, the staff at the community market greets us with excitement. Garden fresh lettuce, radishes, kale and tomatoes fly off the shelves in a matter of hours.’
Though the majority of the food New Roots donates comes from large gleaning events, the small donations from gardeners are equally as important as they provide a wider variety of fresh produce for consumers. As Lanny puts it ‘The small donations are certainly making a difference and add extra flavor and nutrition to meals. The food also inspires a feeling of community and connectivity with our valley as a home. Growers and recipients of this produce are neighbors and friends, and we want to encourage that relationship.’
For gardeners, using the Fresh Food Connect app helps them know where and when New Roots is available to receive homegrown produce. It also allows gardeners to keep track of their total donations through the year.
How to get involved
New Roots CO would love to expand their work in the community and has aspirations of starting programs such as fuel mileage reimbursement for volunteers who transport the produce from the garden to the food bank and is always looking for additional funding to complete this work. Adding New Roots CO as your community organization on your City Market rewards card (don’t worry it doesn’t affect your points!) is an easy and cost free way to help; just be sure to set your preferred store to the Eagle location while you complete the setup so that you can choose New Roots CO as your community organization. Those looking to donate can do so directly on their website, newrootsco.org; all donations are greatly appreciated!
For those located in the Eagle River Valley, people can get involved by volunteering to help in the Garden Guardian plots and attending their educational events to learn more about high altitude gardening so that they can have more abundance in their personal gardens and more surplus to share. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website for more details about volunteering and events.
New Roots CO would also like to encourage gardeners to download the Fresh Food Connect app and start donating produce to their local hunger relief organization. Also check out the Grow & Give website for all the information you need to grow a successful vegetable garden.
Let’s create more connected, thriving communities and resilient local food systems by growing food and sharing our harvests!
What if every gardener planted just one extra plant to share?
One small donation can have a tremendous impact. Just imagine, if every gardener planted one extra plant to share, collectively, we would have an abundant source of fresh, healthy produce available to be distributed to families experiencing food insecurity in our own communities! The free Fresh Food Connect mobile app connects you to a local hunger relief program, then manages and tracks your donations of homegrown produce throughout the season. Download the app today!