New grant to grow fresh produce, health equity for CNY refugees

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A new greenhouse is coming to the nonprofit Refugee and Immigrant Self-Empowerment, or RISE. The organization’s agriculture program teaches refugees from countries around the world how to farm in the southern climate. A recent grant of $30,000 will help the organization expand its resources to expand its efforts and support health equity.

Program Director Anna Zoodsma said the grant-funded plant nursery will allow immigrants and refugees to grow seedlings during Central New York’s winter.

“Seeds will be started in the greenhouse and will be transplanted into the field once they are mature enough and it’s warmer weather for those crops to grow,” Zoodsma said.

The harvest offers fresh fruits and vegetables to newcomer communities and a chance to make a living with their stand at the CNY regional market.

Zoodsma said the greenhouse encourages health equity by ensuring food security.

“I think at a very basic level, to live a healthy, happy life, you need to have access to foods that are important to you and that nourish you,” she said.

She said the greenhouse will help support both the physical and mental health of the gardeners.

“They’re reflecting on joining agricultural practices that they did in their home country, where they were maybe subsistence farmers that might not be as common in the U.S.,” she said.

The $30,000 grant from Excellus BlueCross Blue Shield will also cover a vegetable washing station and structure for classes on farming in the Central New York climate. RISE has ordered more than 100 types of seed for farmers to start planting. Onions will be the first crops to be planted at the end of February.

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