Key Takeaways

  • Every year, NISC's annual Programs of Excellence Awards honor and promote the outstanding programs offered by senior centers across the country.

  • Learn more about Just Picked, the 2022 Programs of Excellence Award Winner in the Nutrition category.

NISC Programs of Excellence 

  • Year Awarded: 2022
  • Programs of Excellence Name: Just Picked
  • Hosting Organization: Thrive 55+ Active Living Center, Groton, Connecticut
  • Groton Population: 37,607
  • 60+ Population: 7,834
  • Senior Center Members: 3,000

About Just Picked

Taking the idea of farm-to-table and putting it into action, Just Picked is a program that provides farm-fresh vegetables to older adults and shows them how to prepare these vegetables.

Developed by Thrive55+ and a collaboration with the Eastern Connecticut Community Garden Association (ECCGA), the  12-week program linked 45 participants who receivde a weekly Community Supported Agriculture Share (CSA) of vegetables that were available on Tuesdays. This group was invited on that day to participate in a cooking class that used the vegetables they just received (28 participated). Chefs from University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension and ECCGA prepared the food while participants watched and asked questions.  This allowed individuals to expand on their cooking skills and also learn new skills.  Recipes were also given out at the cooking portion but also later to anyone asking.

Another part of the program invited older adults to volunteer to work with the Thrive55+ raised bed garden and assist by planning what was to be planted, preparing the soil, planting the vegetables and herbs and then harvesting to be used at the Thrive 55+ Coastal Cafe.

smiling older adults in outdoor garden

Key takeaways from Just Picked:

  • The program was designed to address individuals that participate at Thrive55+ who were known to be food insecure.
  • The Thrive55+ garden produced over 550 pounds of fresh vegetables and herbs, which were then prepared for people who use the senior center's Coastal Cafe.
  • Just Picked benefits individuals by getting fresh food that not only tastes exceptionally better but is packed full of the natural vitamins that promote better health.
  • Participating in the cooking portion of the program educates individuals on how to prepare foods they may never have had prior to the program.

About Thrive 55+ Active Living Center

Thrive 55+ Active Living Center  is the premiere location for nutrition, health and recreational classes, special events and trips, transportation, information and referral services for Groton residents 55 years and older. Programs in health, finance, fitness, art, and more are offered year-round, and there are special events throughout the year, many open to residents and non-residents.  The center offers daily lunch and snacks and promotes recreation for older adults not only for the physical health benefits but also because physical activity "can also support your mental health, relieve the feeling of fatigue, restore our energy and promote a sense of joy."