Today I was at a conference in Hartford, and I just want to say that I had the best box lunch I have ever had at a conference, maybe the best box lunch ever. The story that goes with it makes it seem even more delightful.
The lunches were catered by The Kitchen, an urban workforce-training effort by Billings Forge Community Works. We had four lunch choices, and I chose the curried chicken-and-grape salad on fruit-and-nut bread, with sides of potato salad, orzo and olive salad, and a just-baked cookie. (There were also local beverages like birch beer and Dangerous Ginger Beer, “hot mon!”)
The story begins with the Melville Charitable Trust, dedicated to “finding and fighting the causes of homelessness.” After its success renovating a building to house nonprofit offices in Frog Hollow, an impoverished section of Hartford, the city asked the Trust to take on a big housing project nearby. The initiative grew into an inspiring example of holistic community development, involving gardens, youth activities, a gourmet restaurant that attracted suburbanites from Day One, and a successful catering facility that has the added benefit of training neighborhood residents in professional food service. We got to see much of this on a tour we took after our meeting and after the box lunch. But pictures are worth a thousand words: