October 3, 2013
Richard Berkfield , Executive Director, Co-founder, Food Connects [email protected]
Food Connects, a Brattleboro-based nonprofit, has launched Buying Clubs for affordable local food in four local schools as part of the Vermont Community Foundation’s Food and Farm Initiative. Community members near Brattleboro Area Middle School, Academy School, Putney Central, and Guilford Central can enroll now at FoodConnects.org.
The Clubs provide local food at lower prices through their partnership with Windham Farm and Food (WFF). Members place food orders twice a month, online or on paper, and WFF delivers to the school every two weeks. The club accepts cash, EBT, or check. The Clubs are open to all community members with a stated goal of serving low-income families. Participants who do not qualify for WIC, food stamps, or state-subsidized health insurance pay a little extra to support those who need more. The intention of the Buying Clubs is to create new markets for local food, not to shift from existing direct farm to consumer markets.
“The Buying Club is for anyone and everyone—families, community members, staff members,” says Ingrid Chrisco, principal of the Brattleboro Area Middle School (BAMS). “BAMS is pleased to support such a good program and opportunity.”
Produce is seasonal and inventory fluctuates throughout the year, but Food Connects does have a reliable supply of apples, root vegetables, herbs, and even some greenhouse-produced leafy greens throughout the sparse winter and early spring months. Eggs, bread, bagels, yogurt, cheese, and other items are available all year long.
The Community Foundation funded the Buying Clubs as one of the promising approaches they’ve identified to tackle food insecurity in Vermont through the local food system. Food Connects also received funding from the Initiative to collaborate with Green Mountain Farm-To-School on a statewide Harvest of the Month program which provides illustrated posters and educational materials to schools and other interested institutions. These materials centered on a monthly “harvest” encourage classrooms, cafeterias, and communities to incorporate local produce into their meals. October’s materials feature broccoli and cauliflower and can be found at VermontHarvestoftheMonth.org.
“The Food and Farm Initiative has allowed Food Connects to find ways to better connect more Vermonters with locally produced foods. Accessing and cooking local food is a challenge for most of us, but it’s especially difficult for those of us who are struggling financially. As a community, we have a lot more to learn, and do, to make sure that more of us can eat locally-produced food,” says Richard Berkfield, executive director.
This year’s Buying Clubs are supported by the help of volunteers and students at each school. Community members interested in volunteering to support the Clubs can contact Helen at FoodConnects dot org for BAMS and Putney, or Hanna at FoodConnects dot org for Academy and Guilford. For more information about Food Connects or to join one of the clubs, visit FoodConnects.org.
Food Connects is a southern Vermont nonprofit dedicated to cultivating healthy farm and food connections in classrooms, cafeterias, and communities. Their work seeks to ensure the growth and sustainability of Farm-to-School programming in and around Windham County, increase direct sales by developing new markets for locally produced food, and support the development of local food aggregation and distribution systems. They can be found on Facebook and on Twitter @FoodConnectsVT. Visit FoodConnects.org for more information.
The Vermont Community Foundation’s Food and Farm Initiative works at the nexus of hunger, health, and the state’s agricultural tradition to connect all Vermont families with healthy, local food—regardless of where they live, what they earn, or how much time they spend cooking. Over the next five years, through research, grants, and investments—and in partnership with funders and providers across the state—the Community Foundation will help Vermont develop a nationally-recognized food system that sustains local farmers and creates healthy communities for all Vermonters. Visit vermontcf.org/localfood or call (802) 388-3355 for more information.