Isa Amaro Varas ’23 awarded distinguished Watson Fellowship
In her first-ever grant-writing effort, Connecticut College senior Sarah Harris garnered a $5,000 donation for the New London Area Food Coalition, which operates the New London Area Food Pantry. A representative from the Chelsea Groton Foundation, which awarded the grant, presented the check.
It was an important moment for the anthropology major who had been working on course-based research projects at the food pantry since her sophomore year.
“I was elated and very thankful that the bank’s foundation recognized the incredible impact the Food Pantry makes on the community,” Harris said.
The food pantry is a central distribution site for area residents in need of emergency food; it serves more than 1,000 people each month. With appropriate vouchers from local social service organizations, those in need can pick up a three-day supply of groceries, including fruits, vegetables, protein and other staples.
The grant funds will be used to purchase quality food that is nourishing and healthful and to help increase the options for protein items for clients.
“We are so grateful to have a neighbor like Connecticut College and partners like Sarah and the Chelsea Groton Foundation who believe in and support our mission in so many ways. This grant will go a long way toward meeting the needs of the people of New London," said Bob Lavoie, the food pantry’s treasurer.
Harris was introduced to the food pantry by her anthropology professor, Joyce Bennett, an advocate of community learning who connects a number of her courses to organizations and efforts in southeastern Connecticut. As a sophomore, Harris worked with fellow students and Bennett to conduct a survey at the food pantry, and then presented the results to the coalition’s board of directors.
When Harris expressed an interest in grant writing and in further supporting the food pantry’s mission, she turned to Bennett for help. Under Bennett’s mentorship, Harris carefully examined food insecurity in the New London region and the impact a donation could have on the local population, as well as local organizations that might support a funding request. After several drafts and input from Bennet, she submitted the compelling final request to the Chelsea Groton Foundation.
“I am pleased about this outcome because it meets many goals in a non-traditional way,” said Bennett. “A student was able to get practical experience that will benefit her career, she learned about the structural issues surrounding poverty and food insecurity, and she used that knowledge to do something about it. This applied anthropology project is producing valuable results for both students and New London residents.”
The Chelsea Groton Foundation, Inc., was formed in 1998 as a Section 501(c) (3) organization. Initially endowed with a $2 million donation from Chelsea Groton Bank, and recently gifted an additional $5 million from the bank, the foundation has awarded more than $2.6 million in grants to hundreds of scientific, educational and charitable organizations located within the bank’s Connecticut and Rhode Island market area.