Harvest Now was founded in 2008 to help address the significant issue of food scarcity in the U.S. by encouraging local organizations–including correctional facilities, religious institutions and schools–to help fight hunger and improve the health of those living in their communities by planting, growing and donating food from their own grounds to local shelters and food banks. The project initially started as a call-to-action to local organizations in Fairfield County, CT and has since expanded to 18 states through Harvest Now’s partnership with the Department of Corrections. Since its founding, Harvest Now has donated over 300,000 pounds of fresh produce grown by its partners—including 143,000 pounds in 2016 alone.
In the early stages of its program, Harvest Now, although a non-religious affiliated organization, focused on encouraging local churches to grow food on their grounds, but with only eight churches participating, Harvest Now moved toward having congregation members donate from their own home gardens. There was much enthusiasm, and by the third year, 50 congregations were growing and donating thousands of pounds of produce to food banks all over Connecticut. It wasn’t until after working with Family ReEntry, which provides reentry programs in Connecticut, that Harvest Now was introduced to its first prison in 2012, the Willard-Cybulski Correctional Institution in Enfield, CT. As a facility, they agreed to create a food growing program that ended up contributing 22,000 pounds of fresh, healthy produce into the community, which might not otherwise have access to such a diet. With the success of Willard-Cybulski as an impetus, 85 prisons are now participating in grow-to-donate programs nationwide.
Today, Harvest Now primarily partners with correctional facilities to develop grow-to-donate programs, as well as to provide fresh food for their own cafeterias. It has also proved to be extremely significant for inmates, both men and women, to form healthy habits, train for post-release job opportunities, and find a source of pride and therapeutic outlet through gardening.
Brooks Sumberg, Founder & Director
Initially to help address the significant issue of food scarcity in the U.S., Brooks Sumberg founded Harvest Now in 2008 with the intention of providing fresh food to those in need by encouraging local communities and correctional facilities to create vegetable gardens. Over time, he has also seen firsthand how Harvest Now is extremely significant for the wellbeing of inmates, as both a therapeutic outlet and a source of life skills training for post-release.
In addition to Harvest Now, Brooks has been involved with reentry programming through Family ReEntry, a Connecticut-based organization, by holding classes for parolees on job seeking and interviewing skills. He also founded the Connecticut Bike Project, an effort to increase mobility for underserved communities, which has brought more than 3,000 bicycles to needy children, parolees, and new immigrants in the Bridgeport, Connecticut area. Catholic Charities honored Brooks with the St. Augustine Medal for his work with the Connecticut Bike Project.
Brooks received a B.A. in History from the Kent State University in 1972 and was recently recognized by the University’s Alumni Association with its Distinguished Citizen Award in 2016. After graduation, he spent two years with the Peace Corps serving in Tunisia, where he worked on water systems, helping to construct and renovate wells. He then went on to lead a successful career in business, and now has devoted his time in retirement to helping those in need.