It’s Here! After Decades Of Despair, A Market Grows In East End Food Desert On Stratford Avenue

Inside the market.

Finally it’s here, and neighborhood residents are rejoicing.

The East End food desert is receiving much-needed desserts. The Bridgeport Coalition United to Reach Equity (CURE) and the East End Neighborhood Revitalization Zone on Wednesday received a $250,000 check from the Aetna Foundation as national grand prize winners for the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge dedicated to the newly opened East End Pop-up Market and Café, to help residents access more nutritious food, at 1851 Stratford Avenue.

Under a heated tent on Stratford Avenue packed with about 200 people, Governor Ned Lamont and Mayor Joe Ganim joined local, state and Aetna Foundation officials including NRZ and neighborhood leaders Deb Sims and Deb Caviness–“the two Debs” as noted by Aetna speaker Dr. Garth Graham–who trailblazed two years of work to make the market a reality.

Caviness, addressing the audience, declared Wednesday “the day the lord has made … I’m about to cry … This market will transform this neighborhood.”

Caviness thanked community partners such as Bridgeport Neighborhood Trust, Bridgeport Landing Development, operators of the Steelpointe Harbor redevelopment area, MGM Resorts, Bridgeport Hospital, NRZ leader Keith Williams, the local carpenters union and others for stepping up.

A food desert is defined as an area that lacks access to affordable fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat milk, and other foods that make up the full range of a healthy diet. The 1,000-square-foot market will impact the neighborhood across a spectrum of issues covering health, social, crime and economics, according to coalition officials who worked on the project.

Ganim greeted the crowd from the lectern declaring “A packed tent in the middle of Stratford Avenue … More progress and more opportunities.”

Governor Ned Lamont addresses audience under tent. At right, Deb Caviness, State Senator Marilyn Moore, Mayor Joe Ganim.

Speaking of more, State Senator Marilyn Moore, a health care professional who is challenging Ganim in this election year, sat next to Ganim during the proceedings. Moore has been at the forefront of community farming and critical need for healthy food choices. She also addressed the audience. “Revolution is a struggle between past and present,” she said. “This is a revolution.”

“You are an inspiration to me,” Lamont announced under the tent. “This shows how people came together.”

Governor Lamont with City Councilman Ernie Newton, left, and Doug Wade, owner of Wade’s Dairy on Barnum Avenue, inside the pop-up market.

Moments before the event started, a curious neighborhood resident opened the driver’s side window to a police officer directing traffic on Stratford Avenue.

“What’s up, officer?”

“An announcement for a market.”

“It’s about time!” the driver gushed.

The pop-up market, say city officials, is a significant appetizer for what is expected to come for the neighborhood, a planned summer East End groundbreaking for a 30,000-square foot buildout that will include a grocery store, Optimus Health Care facility, a pharmacy, restaurants, hair salon and laundromat, all adjacent to a new library.

Anthony Stewart, the managing partner of city-based Ashlar Construction has joined forces with Bridgeport Landing Development as equity partners for the $7 million investment in the civic block area of the neighborhood.

Additional background on the Aetna Foundation and pop-up market:

Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge Approach: Bridgeport Coalition United to Reach Equity, or CURE, is a project designed to help the poor residents of Bridgeport. Neighborhood Revitalization Zone members, the food policy council and community members and leaders, have identified the need for a grocery store and living wage jobs in their community. This project will address many issues such as violence prevention, access to healthy foods and job training and will bring together intergenerational groups in the East End Market.

Among some recent happenings, a new community garden helped support the East End Pop-Up Market and Cafe, which won a community impact award, and a local celebrity chef helped show youth how to turn produce into healthy, delicious meals.

The Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge is a collaboration between the Aetna Foundation, the American Public Health Association (APHA) and the National Association of Counties (NACo) empowering 50 small to midsize cities and counties across the United States to create a positive health impact.

This two-phase initiative began in 2016 and empowered participating communities to share best practices with each other through an ongoing learning network, and serve as models for other communities across the country.

Participating cities and counties moved the needle toward creating healthier and more equitable communities using measurable criteria over the past several years. Key program domains include:
· Healthy behaviors
· Community safety
· Built environment
· Social and economic factors
· Environmental exposure



  1. I want to thank the 2 debb’s and the Eastend NRZ for your hard work a dedication and never giving up.
    Its been two years since it conception also would like to thank ETNA for awarding 250,000.00 towards this Pop-up market. Our civic block is on track with a new Library a Grocery store and commercial with housing etc. Our Gov. Ned Lamont while campaigning in the eastend promised he would not forget. Our community or Bridgeport and so far he has kept his word. We have many great announcements coming in the Eastend STAY- TUNED.

        1. Despite Lennie’s good graces, nothing says I don’t belong here more than your inability to compose / form / write a cohesive post! If the English language were a basketball game, you would have fouled out a long time ago.

  2. Congratulations to Debra Caviness, Debbie Sims and Keith Williams and the team that has this up and running. It’s a long time coming but it’s here and definitely needed.

  3. Congratulations to all involved but I am sure that the residents of the East End are most appreciative. I have one question about this. A “pop-up” market is usually temporary. Is this going to be permanent or temporary. Thank you.

  4. A heartfelt thanks to Debra Caviness, Debbie Sims and Keith Williams for your commitment to the East End and its residents. You guys exemplify the saying, Seriousness Coupled with Action.

  5. Lennie, did you write this or was it contributed?

    Is there an accounting of how this money is being spent? One of the ‘Debs’ has skeletons in her closet.

    Seriously, who is overseeing this operation and keeping the books?

    Everyone is rejoicing and patting themselves on the back. Is anyone doing any fact checking?

    Aetna gets a $250,000 write-off. The new Governor and felon-Mayor take bows. Red flags here?

    1. I wrote it. If Aetna Foundation is donating 250K to the cause isn’t it their job to inquire about checks and balances of their money? If it’s so important to you how money is spent why don’t you contact the principals involved?

      1. Lennie, that was a good reply to Tom White seeing that White is a former Alderman plus he’s was in the banking business he could volunteer his time to this program especially since Tom White loves being white and with every chance he gets he’s criticizing blacks.

  6. Bad night at tonight’s Bridgeport Board Of Education Meeting. New Bylaws adapted WITHOUT Public Comment.The Six GanimTesta puppets forced through new by laws while throwing out Roberts Rule of Orders at the same time . The Shameful Six are talented at doing that. The newest entrants to the Bridgeport Hall of Shame; John Weldon(Chair),Jessica Martinez,Hernan Illingsworth,Sybill Allen,Chris Taylor,and repeat offender Dennis Bradley. I hope they picked up their cold slices of pizza on Madison Avenue on their way home.

    1. “THE SHAMEFUL SIX( I like alliteration)…Weldon,Martinez,Illingsworth,Allen,Taylor,Bradley. The Shameful Six… I like that title. Probably will keep on using it.

  7. Lennie, you are the journalist.
    With the way things are done in Bridgeport, asking for some assurance of accountability is important. I put my time in. I had a hand in addressing corruption in a mayoral administration. (So much for that) I hope there is accountability with this program and we don’t read about accusations of missing funds or questions about how it is managed.

    The Mackey and Day comments are their typical shallow attempts to appear witty.

    1. Isn’t that special, Tom White padding himself on his back for something he spoke about almost 40 years ago. Anything about the East End or about blacks you can be sure Tom White will be white and add his white voice to criticize whatever it is. With February being Black History Month Tom White can’t wait for March to come fast enough, right White.

  8. Tom White is right.
    Too many of these things in the past (Ripkas Market, Charles Smith Foundation, etc) have been riddled with skimming, lack of transparency, and lack of sustainability.
    Someone has to ask questions.

    1. Bob, C’Mon Man, there’s no problem with asking questions but Tom White’s fake ass doesn’t give a damn about the East End or the black community. Bob, I have no problem with you asking questions.

  9. Tom (being) White, really? You said, “I hope there is accountability with this program.” What do you care, you aren’t going to the East End to shop, to visit or for any other reason so why concern yourself with transparency or accountability?
    You should just continue to be the best example of Trump that you can be and don’t concern yourself about those Black’s and Latinos from the East End, they’ll be alright. Aetna and MGM are multi-billion dollar businesses who I’m sure did their due diligence in investigating all those involved and I’m equally sure that they don’t need the input of a Trump clone for advise. Bob, Tom isn’t right about anything including his disdain for all that is Black.

  10. What MGM is doing has been done before. Their people identify and befriend a few locals, including elected officials, who may influence decisions to accommodate their project. They sprinkle money here and there. This is part of their game plan. We’ve seen it before.

    What is in it for Aetna? A tax deduction. The only due diligence they likely did was the tax status of the organization they write a check to. Aren’t they wonderful! Are more layoffs and relocations in the works for them?

    1. Tom this was a two year process Eastend’s NRZ along with the community. Debbie Sims and Debbie Caviness along with many other put in long hours to make this happen.Why is it when BlackRock gets a grant or Lighting which cost a lot of money. You said nothing about it. But if it happens in a Black community its about Accountability. This grant was a competitive Grant. Eastend’s NRZ beat out 50 other Towns and Cities. Tom if this was in Blackrock you would not open your mouth about MGM nor Aetna.

  11. This is great news for the East End,it’s crazy to think they were without an outlet to buy groceries for so long.Kudos to all involved that made it happen!

  12. Tom
    I’m very disappointed in you. First of all if you were truly concerned about the program being run correctly you would have put this question to Aetna a long time ago and not throw it out publicly to try to question the integrity of the people involved.
    From my personal experience a company does not give a group like this a bag full of cash and say help yourself and walk away. Whether it’s a tax write off or not it’s real money that Aetna does not want to deal it be spent foolishly. Shame on you.

  13. Ernie you are correct. In my opinion Tom White would never give the Black community any well wishes and or credit for anything that they have achieved. This market was long overdue and a great addition to the community. If you Ernie do anything positive Tom will respond first by saying that you are a felon and then by claiming that there is somehow something in it for you personally, Tom is not that hard to figure out, he is old ,angry and resentful of any person of color who can out shine him. Unlike you Ernie who has shown the ability to bounce back Tom could never hit that high note in his life and I believe that is the root of his resentment. I think it is clear Tom White is hoping for a scandal associated with this project. Very sad.

  14. This just in. There was another murder in the Port yesterday. Chief Perez made the observation “There are just too many guys with guns out there.”
    Maybe that’s why the job description call for a college degree.

  15. Let me break it down for you. Here’s the antidote: < — the last word in second chances. It's an actionable idea that's better than knocking on doors.
    Bridgeport needs a branch office for this commendable concept. Trading guns for jobs sounds like a fantastic idea. It creates wealth and reduces crime. What's wrong with that?

  16. I was going to try to match the wit of the three stooges (Day, Mackey and McLaine) , but they are so impressive with their knowledge and critical thinking skills that I don’t want to be embarrassed by trying to take them on.

    Bob Walsh, why would I contact Aetna concerning reservations I would have about their tax-deductible contribution? I’m sure you remember the times when journalists would dig down and ask questions about details that readers may ask. Those days are past. Now we are informed(?) through social media.

    Ernie, I have a suggestion. In your role as a City Council Member you have authority to review department financial records. The City of Bridgeport acts as financial fiduciary for the NRZs. Therefore, accounting for all funding used for projects ‘sponsored’ by an NRZ is a City responsibility and, in turn, the City Council oversees the city budget. I would hope that the finances for this and other East End NRZ projects are reviewed in detail at East End NRZ meetings and you, and all members of the city council, should keep current with NRZ activities and expenses.

    There have been well planned and executed neighborhood projects long before the creation of NRZs.
    The South End had a gateway project on Park Avenue during the Paoletta administration. Later, Black Rock had a gateway project. (the same person organized them) The North End had the North End Library and Community Center.

    The Black Rock community has a track record of having committed and capable residents involved in projects and elected officials who are actively involved. Other NRZs and elected officials should take note.


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