Free Shuttle Service Brings Asylum Hill Community to the Billings Forge Farmers’ Market

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Shuttle provided by Aetna and The Hartford gives employees and Asylum Hill residents access to fresh, local food, fosters neighborhood connections
Aetna, The Hartford to match  employee spending to help fund the Double Value Coupon Program for SNAP, EBT and WIC shoppers

HARTFORD, CT --Aetna and The Hartford have partnered to provide free, roundtrip shuttle service from the Asylum Hill neighborhood to the Billings Forge Farmers’ Market in Frog Hollow. Asylum Hill’s Fresh Express will run Thursdays between June 5 and Oct. 23 from 10:45 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. It will stop at The Hartford, Aetna, My Sisters’ Place and Immanuel House to bring employees and residents to the farmers’ market.

“We are so pleased to be able to partner with The Hartford and Aetna in providing access to fresh, locally grown food on Thursdays for Asylum Hill residents and workers,” said Cary Wheaton, executive director of Billings Forge. “We have seen firsthand how farmers’ markets build community and are a unique opportunity for neighborhood connectedness. Billings Forge looks forward to welcoming employees and residents from My Sisters’ Place and Immanuel House as we work together to strengthen our neighborhoods.”

The Hartford initiated Asylum Hill’s Fresh Express shuttle as a result of the recent Harwood Institute report on the Asylum Hill community. In 2013, The Hartford and the United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut partnered with The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation to engage people living and working in Asylum Hill in a series of community conversations. These discussions revealed the desire for a safer, more connected community.

“The shuttle will be available to all the people of Asylum Hill,” said Diane Cantello, vice president of Corporate Social Responsibility at The Hartford. “In addition to creating closer connections within the community, the improved access to fresh, locally grown food will nourish both appetites and the local economy.”

Through the market’s participation in the Double Value Coupon Program, shoppers can use their SNAP (Food Stamp), electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards, and WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) benefits at the Billings Forget Farmers’ Market and receive twice the benefit when purchasing locally grown fruits and vegetables.

“As part of the program, The Hartford and Aetna will match what their employees spend at the market, which will help fund the double coupon program,” said Wheaton. “The more employees spend at the market, the more they give back to the community.”

“We want to help build sustainable neighborhoods, and that begins right here in Hartford,” said Chris Montross, Aetna’s managing director of Community Relations and Urban Marketing. “The shuttle partnership is an exciting way to give back where many of our employees live, work and play. Every person that steps onto the bus will have a measurable impact in this vibrant community.”

The Farmers’ Market at Billings Forge began in 2007 as a seasonal weekly market providing the residents of Billings Forge and the surrounding Frog Hollow neighborhood with access to fresh, local foods. Between 2008 and 2009, The Farmers’ Market doubled its sales to become Hartford’s largest farmers’ market. Farmers and food artisans travel from all over Connecticut to sell their fresh goods directly to consumers. In addition to produce, the market also features flowers, breads, fresh dairy, locally made Italian ice, eggs, jams, pickles, soaps, and locally roasted coffees. In 2010 Billings Forge added products from its own on-site garden. Visit the vendors page to learn more about the farmers, artisans, and entrepreneurs who participate in the market every week.



Mike Miller
Billings Forge


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