Community Table/Mesa Comunitaria was initiated in the summer of 2020 through a Neighbors for Neighbors COVID-19 relief grant. With families out of work because of the global pandemic and many barriers in place to receive assistance, Mesa Comunitaria/Community table became an emergency food response in Windham.
It exists today as a pantry service that delivers weekly boxes of food to over 20 families in need, with an emphasis on reaching Latinx immigrant women and teens in Willimantic. These boxes are filled with food gleaned from local farmers, gardeners and pantries and supplemented with additional groceries purchased through community fundraising efforts. The boxes are packed and delivered by recipients and community members who are compensated for their time through a stipend program.
The Community Table/Mesa Comunitaria project both increases economic security, as it puts food on the table for immigrant households; as well as builds leadership and power. It brings new, intergenerational voices to the table to organize themselves in order to generate and distribute local food resources. It aims to be a member-led, self-sustaining communal pantry and food processing collective for families in Willimantic.
Food Inequality in Our Town
Community Table/Mesa Comunitaria addresses the root causes of two inequities in our food system in Willimantic that impact Latinx immigrant residents, and fall disproportionately on the shoulders of women.
Inequitable distribution of power: Food assistance infrastructure and decision-making is driven by funders and service providers, rather than constituents. There are pervasive barriers in place when accessing food pantries. Documentation status, administrative requirements, language barriers, inconvenient hours, transportation, and lack of culturally-appropriate food options can make them inaccessible and often dehumanizing for many Latinx immigrants.
Inequitable access to resources: In the US, food is treated as a commodity, rather than a right. In order to access healthy food, one must have access to employment that provides a living wage. However – as we have seen dramatically since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic – employees in food service and the informal economy are extremely vulnerable. They experience little protections regarding wages, rights or benefits. Immigrant community members are particularly vulnerable, and have limited access to employment opportunities.
How We Work to Achieve These Goals:
This project shifts power, so that “recipients,” or “constituents,” are leaders and decision-makers, and “providers” serve as allies to gather resources and remove barriers. La Mesa Comunitaria/ Community table builds self-resiliency among Latinx immigrant women and their families, as it connects them directly with – and gives them control over – food resources, reducing their dependence on income to purchase them.
Stipend Program: Most activities at Community Table are constituent led and organized. Members receive a stipend in return for their time and shop, pack, and deliver for the program. This gives families direct control over what food is sourced for the program, while compensating them for work that they would otherwise not have the time or privilege to carry out on a volunteer basis.
Food Preference Surveys: Recipients are encouraged to fill out regular food preference surveys. The surveys are essential to understanding what foods are culturally relevant for families. The goal has always been that participants can access food that they want to receive, instead of just meeting basic needs. This information also drives the decision making in the spring when our partnering farmers are making crop plans for the season.
Food Delivery: The pantry program is entirely run on contact free delivery of weekly boxes. This provides safety in times of the pandemic, while also bringing food to families that don’t have access to reliable transportation to pick up food.
How To Sign Up:
You do not need to fill out an application. Intake forms are required to make sure we have all necessary information. If the program is full, we will reach out to notify you and add you to a wait list.
Fill out the online intake form HERE
Contact us using the Contact Form HERE
Or call (860) 341-1542 to speak directly to the Coordinator (Spanish or English)
What to Expect:
Boxes are delivered every Wednesday between 9am and 3pm. Times may vary between weeks. The boxes are labeled with your address and apartment number (no name unless requested) and are left at the location of your choosing at your address.
They contain approximately 10-20lbs of food, depending on season and family size. Box contents will follow your food preferences based on completed surveys, and may include fresh produce from local farms, produce purchased from grocery stores, frozen produce, dry goods and cans, household supplies, and drinks.
Feedback is highly encouraged! If there is something you do not wish to receive, or if you have any concerns or questions, please reach out.
Our Food System
- Grow Windham Youth Core plants and harvest from three community gardens including:
- Thread City Family Garden
- WAIM Garden
- Maranatha Community Garden
- Partnering Farms provide seasonal produce including:
- Spring Valley Farm
- Brown Farm
- Willow Valley Farm
- Cobblestone Farm
- Sweet Acre Farm
- Partnering Agencies share pantry goods and produce in the winter, including:
- Access Agency Willimantic
- Salvation Army in Willimantic
- Covenant Soup Kitchen
- Midwest Food Bank of New England provides much of our bulk non perishable pantry items through the year
- Grocery store items are purchased weekly to fill out any gaps in the boxes, and to provide more culturally appropriate food items.
- Plant-A-Row participants donate food from their home gardens at their own convenience
Community Table/Mesa Comunitaria
Food is picked up, weighed, and stored in our main location for distribution.
- Community Table boxes are delivered every Wednesday to over 20 families in Willimantic
- Community Fridge
- Excess produce and pantry items might be brought to the fridge in Whitewater park for anyone to use
- Extra produce is distributed back to local pantries and churches
- Salvation Army Willimantic
- Access Agency Mobile Food Pantry Willimantic
- Covenant Soup Kitchen
- First Baptist Church of Willimantic
- Click Kitchen in Willimantic
- Fresh produce is occasionally processed for distribution later in the year in different forms. Through this partnership we have been able to provide: frozen produce, pesto, dried herbs, canned tomato sauce.