From its beginning, CitySeed has worked to overcome the barriers urban residents face in accessing fresh, healthy food. CitySeed was launched by four neighbors interested in starting a producer-only farmers’ market in the Wooster Square neighborhood, where it was easy enough to find pizza, but nearly impossible to locate fresh, locally grown produce. Following the overwhelming success of this Saturday Farmers’ Market in Wooster Square, at the invitation of various community groups, and with the support of the City of New Haven and The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, CitySeed began to operate three additional producer-only markets in three different New Haven neighborhoods in July 2005: Downtown, Fair Haven and Edgewood Park. We have since launched an Indoor Winter Market to ensure farmers can continue bringing their produce and products to New Haven year-round.
New Haven faces high rates of food insecurity, with 22% of residents finding it difficult to put sufficient food on the table. CitySeed believes that food insecurity is rooted in poverty and structural barriers, keeping residents from being able to choose healthy, fresh, and local foods. In response, CitySeed worked hard to ensure all our Farmers’ Markets were certified to accept Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program coupons, which are distributed to nutritionally at-risk women, infants, children and senior citizens, as well as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (SNAP), accessed through Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards). In fact, on June 4, 2005, our farmers’ market at Wooster Square became the first farmers’ market in the state to accept SNAP/EBT. CitySeed was nationally recognized in October 2007 as the “Golden Grocer Hunger Champion” in the farmers’ market category by USDA for our Food Stamp and nutrition education programs.
Today, our Markets serve over 55,000 visitors per year, and provide space for approximately 60 vendors, half of whom are Connecticut farmers, while the other half are food entrepreneurs sourcing from local farms. By supporting Connecticut farmers and keeping food dollars in the community, our Markets have an immediate, positive impact on the local economy while promoting sustainable agriculture and farm viability across the state.
In 2015, CitySeed built out a commercial kitchen, which served as a catalyst for the growth of our kitchen-based programming. We began offering food business incubation services in 2016, working with rising food entrepreneurs to overcome barriers to entry, connect with farmers for local sourcing, and launch and grow their businesses. Many of these entrepreneurs have gone on to start food businesses, and several are now vendors at our Farmers Markets. And in 2017, CitySeed staff and a team of volunteers launched the Sanctuary Kitchen program, partnering with refugee and immigrant chefs to build economic opportunity and intercultural understanding through food. New Haven has a rich and diverse culinary history, which immigrants have played a key role in, and Sanctuary Kitchen celebrates and promotes the skills and cultural cuisine of refugees and immigrants in New Haven.
All of our work aims to build a more just, local food system in New Haven, and ensure thriving agriculture across our state.