The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts recently awarded Seven Hills ASPiRE!, an affiliate of Seven Hills Foundation, a 2019 Activation Fund Grant in the amount of $109,903 to create a new job training program with sustainable farming as a potential career track for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Sustainable Farming: Activating Health through Skill Building, Education, & Community Partnerships project will build the capacity of Seven Hills to expand its workforce training programs in food service while educating a larger audience about how to grow fresh vegetables and incorporate healthy nutrition and eating into their daily lives.
“We are grateful to The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts for supporting this project and for recognizing the connection that employment and eating healthy has on a person’s overall health and quality of life,” commented Kathleen Jordan, Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of Seven Hills Foundation. “The Sustainable Farming project and workforce readiness activities that will take place as a result of this grant provide a unique opportunity for the individuals we support to interact with members of their community while learning critical social and job skills that help them prepare for and achieve their employment goals.”
The Sustainable Farming project will involve strategic new partnerships with the Regional Environmental Council (REC), Town to Table - a local Hydroponics consulting company, and the City of Worcester. Partners will work with Seven Hills to install accessible raised garden beds and vertical hydroponic tower gardens in six community-based day and employment support sites in central Massachusetts including a large-scale community garden at the new Seven Hills Café located at Coes Pond in Worcester.
Inclusive community gardening alongside educational workshops will focus on job readiness, garden planning and planting, food systems, and nutrition/healthy cooking and will provide over 250 Participants with an introduction to sustainable farming with advanced training opportunities for those who express an interest in pursuing this field as a career choice. Jay Hayston, Vice President of Seven Hills ASPiRE! is thrilled to work closely with The Health Foundation and project partners to strengthen and expand workforce readiness and employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities: “Along with providing opportunities for competitive employment placements, Seven Hills anticipates this project will provide a bridge for more meaningful engagement in home and community growing, and a desire to volunteer in local community gardens or farmers markets.”