Common Ground’s Inspiring Response to Covid-19

By: Audrey Nefores, Development Manager for Supporter Engagement

Common Ground Student enjoying our East Asian and Chinese solidarity cafeteria lunch!

Staff at Common Ground began responding to COVID-19 and its impact on the global and local community while school and programs were still in session. Their work went into high gear after we learned we must close our doors. And they’ll continue to organize and take action in the days, weeks, and months to come.

We are humbled by the ways the team is displaying generosity, resourcefulness and solidarity.

Before the Connecticut school system closed down sites, Disha Patel, our Food Justice Educator, got to work to voice our solidarity with East Asian and Chinese communities impacted by widening racism in America post COVID-19.

She, along with the Farm Team and Common Ground’s Chef Thiya Williams, developed a multifaceted approach to a) educate and empower students on the topic b) support suffering local businesses feeling the pain of racism and c) use food as a form of resistance.

The result? A nourishing meatless lunch served in the cafeteria celebrating East Asian and Chinese cuisine, prepared by Common Ground staff and students. The meal of Thai spring rolls (Po Pia Tod), Chinese long life noodles (Yi Mien), and Indonesian fried rice (Nasi Goreng) used ingredients sourced from New Haven based markets Million Asian Market, Hong Kong Grocery, Oriental Pantry and Shang Hai Fish Market.

Students working together to prep ingredients.

This colorful, celebratory lunch was the last meal we shared with our Common Ground Students and Staff before getting word we’d be closing our site.

Immediately after the closure of our site, the Student Support Team made personal calls to every Common Ground student and their family — checking in on what support they needed in this difficult transition, making sure they have access to technology at home to support their distance learning, and ensuring they have access to food while they are away from school.

Our ceaseless farm team is finding ways to feed our community while following practices to ensure their own safety, and that of those who share our harvest.

The farm, along with a group of volunteers from the High School and Development teams, organized an emergency farm share program to deliver veggies and eggs for our students and families. On Wednesday, March 18th, we made our first delivery to 30 folx — sharing farm fresh eggs, vegetables and other goods from the kitchen. Every delivery included a bilingual message of support, resources on other food access sites in New Haven, information on COVID-19 safety and symptoms, and an assortment of self-care and stress management techniques.

Emergency Farm Shares being bagged and prepared for delivery.

In order to keep our students learning and connected, our team of teachers have been working non-stop to plan how to run high school at a distance.

They are developing innovative and unique ways to continue to teach in a meaningful way without the human contact and direct experience that helps make learning at Common Ground so relevant and responsive. Students have had meaningful work to keep them engaged we are launching distance learning.

Our amazing team of environmental educators is tackling the challenge of doing their work at a safe distance, as well. 

More farm share deliveries, including donations from Trader Joes.

The first weekly set of Nature Year distance learning notes & activities went out yesterday — helping families figure out how to keep kids engaged with learning and nature from home. Today, on the first day of Spring, they began sharing resources for outdoor learning and adventures with our whole community — check out our Facebook page for the latest

And, amongst the many ways we are showing up for our students and families, we are showing up for each other as a team. Jon Carney, our PE teacher, is sending out daily emails to students and staff with ways to stay physically active and healthy. Brian Kelehan, Alumni Affairs and Recruitment, sent our team of teachers/support educators news of the most recent seniors to gain admissions to college — a heartfelt reminder of the many lives they’ve impacted over the years. As always, school leadership continues to keep folx informed on changes and motivated to move forward.

Despite the uncertain times we collectively face, our mission has never been more clear. Together, we’ve got this.


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