Fresh Food for Strong Beginnings:  Community Teamwork/Head Start

Just like a seed needs the right combination of soil, water, and sunlight to grow into a strong, healthy plant, young children need vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to grow into strong, healthy individuals.

That’s why Community Teamwork in Lowell has partnered with Gaining Ground since 2014 to provide Head Start students and their families with fresh, organic produce.

“Especially for our working families, getting to the store and being able to afford high-quality foods can be challenging,” said Gloria Burnham, Health Compliance Manager for Community Teamwork. 

Community Teamwork manages five Head Start locations in Lowell and Dracut, serving about 400 infants, toddlers, and preschoolers each year. What sets the program apart is its commitment to nourishing the whole family

From their central kitchen on Phoenix Ave, a team of seven chefs use Gaining Ground produce as they prepare breakfast, snacks, and lunch each day for all. And each week, a free farmer’s market rotates to one of the four sites, so families can pick up fresh produce from Gaining Ground when they pick up their little ones. 

Last season, this partnership connected Head Start families with more than 7,000 pounds of fresh, nutritious produce. In 2024, we aim to provide even more nourishing food—while adjusting our distribution method to reflect special requests made by our partner. 

The ultimate goal:  to increase access among families to healthy foods they want to cook with, even if they’re not the usual suspects.


A recent article in The Boston Globe revealed that grocery prices have climbed 29% since 2015. In that time, the rate of food insecurity in Massachusetts has doubled, with BIPOC families hit the hardest. As of February 2024, an estimated 22.9% of of households with children are struggling to afford enough healthy food. Among Black and Latinx families, the rate is 1 in 3.

“By working with Gaining Ground, we can make fresh, healthy food convenient for our families,” Gloria said. 

Families are the heart of the matter at Community Teamwork / Head Start. For instance, the organization has a Parent Policy Council, which means that guardians are directly involved in decision making—including new hires, terminations, and changes to the program. In addition to  child care staff, the program is also supported by Family Service Workers, who provide wraparound resources such as employment, housing, and food assistance for adults. 

“That way, the whole family has goals—not just the child,” Gloria said. 

We are thrilled at Gaining Ground to welcome Family Service Workers and members of the Parent Policy Council for farm visits! 


Head Start—a federally-funded, national program—has existed since 1965, to promote school readiness for children under 5 from low-income households. In Lowell, the organization is rooted in a legacy of excellence but also experiments with new growth, especially to improve food access for families.

That includes a special culinary training over the winter for kitchen staff, during which they learned to incorporate more farm-fresh foods into their cooking. When adults are more comfortable with ingredients, Gloria said, kids may be, too. 

“Folks may think of chicken nuggets and French fries as kid food,” Gloria said. “But kid food is whatever you feed kids—including vegetables. Simply by exposing our students to produce coming from the farm, I’ve seen a big shift in their willingness to try new ingredients, and enjoy them.”

These include veggies like Bok choy and Swiss chard—favorites on the farm. While a family with limited income may not prefer to purchase a food they haven’t tried before, they’re more likely to experiment if the ingredient comes in their weekly produce share. 

Perhaps the best way to learn about these new foods is to see them growing—and Gaining Ground is thrilled when staff, families, and toddlers visit us on the farm. 

“It helps us appreciate the whole process:  where the food comes from, all the volunteers who are involved, and the amount of work that goes into it,” Gloria said. 


This year, we’re also trying something new at Gaining Ground:  delivering Head Start produce on Tuesdays rather than Thursdays, based on feedback we received from the kitchen crew during a visit last fall.

By cultivating open, honest dialogue with our partners, we learn—and can respond to—what they need most. In this case, we discovered that Community Teamwork had already received their commercial food orders by the time our weekly distribution arrived on Thursdays. A slight adjustment to our schedule will mean reduced food waste as the chefs order only what they need from suppliers; more timely use of fresh ingredients from the farm; and more weekdays for parents to visit the rotating market to bring home a share. 

To learn more about Community Teamwork / Head Start, visit:

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