Aetna, The Hartford Offer Shuttle To Billings Forge Farmers’ Market

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— Aetna and The Hartford are providing a shuttle service on Thursdays that will pick up people in the Asylum Hill neighborhood and take them to Billings Forge Farmers’ Market in the nearby Frog Hollow neighborhood.

The shuttle is for anyone who lives or works in the neighborhood, not just people who work at Aetna or The Hartford Financial Services Group.

Four shuttles will run continuously from 10:45 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. on Thursdays, the day Billings Forge holds its farmers’ market, starting June 5 and ending Oct. 23. There will be no shuttle on July 3rd.

Three of the shuttles have a 24-passenger capacity and will stop at The Hartford, Aetna and My Sisters’ Place, a safe haven for the homeless and victims of abuse. A fourth shuttle is wheelchair accessible, can hold 34 passengers, and begins its circuit at Immanuel House, a senior housing facility.

The Hartford and the United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut have partnered with The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation to engage people who live and work in Asylum Hill. The goal is to bring about a safer, more connected community.

“In addition to creating closer connections within the community, the improved access to fresh, locally grown food will nourish both appetites and the local economy,” Diane Cantello, vice president of Corporate Social Responsibility at The Hartford, said in a statement.

The farmers market has a Double Value Coupon Program, which gives twice the purchasing power to customers who buy locally grown fruits and vegetables with SNAP food stamps, Electronic Benefit Transfer cards, or through the Women, Infant and Children program. In other words, if the card has $20 of benefit left, it could by $40 of produce at the farmers market.

The Hartford and Aetna are helping to support the Double Value Coupon Program by donating money — a dollar donated for each dollar their employees spend at the farmers’ market.

“We want to help build sustainable neighborhoods, and that begins right here in Hartford,” Chris Montross, Aetna’s managing director of Community Relations and Urban Marketing, said in a statement.

Billings Forge opened its farmers market in 2007. The market offers produce, flowers, breads, dairy, Italian ice, eggs, jams, pickles, soaps and locally roasted coffees. In 2010, Billings Forge added products grown at its on-site garden on Broad Street.

About Matthew Sturdevant

Full-time staff journalist at The Hartford Courant and magazine freelancer with a master's degree in writing from Dartmouth. My work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, Taiwan News, The Baltimore Sun and many other news sources. My blog has been referenced by Politico.com, the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Georgetown Law Library and a number of organizations in healthcare and business. Sturdevant’s blog is "a well-written wealth of ideas," said The Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism, (businessjournalism.org, May 18, 2011). I have experience writing for newspapers, magazines, Web sites and blogs as well as shooting and editing video. I made regular appearances on news-talk radio and on the NBC affiliate station in Corpus Christi, Texas. I made occasional appearances on the Fox affiliate in Connecticut promoting Hartford Courant articles.

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