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PROPOSAL: ESL: English as a Subsistence Language

Sunday, September 22, 2013 | Posted by Alex
Sarah Cadorette

Describe your project.
This isn’t your typical ESL (English as a Second Language) class. Over the course of 2 “semesters” (October–December and January–March), Iwill run an ESL class that meets once a week for 3 hours, during which time students will learn necessary English skills alongside gardening skills and vocabulary for our New England produce and how to prepare it. Many ESL learners don’t have the words to describe food, or any familiarity with the food grown in our climate, and so don’t know how to grocery shop or read a nutrition label. Students will not only receive English lessons, but lessons in gardening in Cambridge’s climate and a CSA share, with instruction on how to prepare the produce.
The class will be capped at 10 students to provide maximum one-on-one tutoring and subsidization of their CSA shares.

How will you use the grant to make your idea happen?
In partnership with Stone Soup Farm, we will provide subsidized CSA shares to all of the students. Shares for the winter season, which extend over 28 weeks and provide enough fresh produce for an entire family, cost $400. All of this grant and any other grants received (I’m planning for another $1,000 grant) will go towards subsidizing the students shares. With $2,000, we can cover half of the cost ($200) for 10 students, and they will provide the rest.

Space will be provided free-of-charge by the Democracy Center in Cambridge. English instruction will be provided free-of-charge by myself and volunteers from Harvard University, and volunteers from Stone Soup Farm will provide free instruction on gardening.

Why and to whom is your project important?
Immigrants are highly at risk for living in food deserts in the greater Boston area. While teaching ESL in one such low-income and low-access area in Dorchester, I realized that it wasn’t lack of interest in healthy eating and home cooking, it was lack of access and knowledge of how to prepare New England’s produce. My students were often forced to eat heavily processed food because it was the most easily available to them.


Free ESL classes in the greater Boston area are difficult to find, and often difficult to access for immigrants who use public transportation and/or work during the week. This location is easily accessible by T, and the classes will be held on the weekend to accommodate working schedules.

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