Planned Parenthood of Central and Western New York’s recently renovated the Connection Café which helps to improve physical and emotional health, provides healthy food and personal hygiene products, and teaches vegetable gardening to youth in Niagara Falls. The Connection Café helps reduce food insecurity by providing free healthy cooking lessons and food to youth participants and advances the local food ecosystem through collaborative partnerships and food-related programming.
The Connection Café features a new kitchen with a commercial refrigerator, deep freezer, stove with a built-in air fryer, food warmers, slushy machine, new wood countertop, an overheard awning, and cabinets for added storage. The countertop overlooks the entire first floor and is used to serve meals and snacks to an average of 25 youth participants per day.
The Connection has an indoor and outdoor gardening program in collaboration with Grassroot Gardens of WNY. In April 2022, 10 youth planted pumpkins, watermelon, tomatoes, and cucumbers inside. In June 2022, 15 youth planted watermelon, tomatoes, jalapenos, cucumbers, and greens outdoors. A 6-week-long cooking lesson that culminated in a competition allowed 10 youth to use and develop their cooking skills. Youth had to cook what was instructed but were able to add their own special touches. The food pantry located in the lower level of The Connection consists of non-perishable food, household supplies, and hygiene and menstrual products.