The Vermont Housing & Conservation Board (VHCB) is offering grants for projects that increase access to nutritious, locally grown food for residents of affordable housing. The grants will support collaborations between affordable housing providers and Vermont’s network of food systems groups to provide cooking and nutrition classes, community meals, community gardens and edible landscaping projects. Grant applications are available on the VHCB website and are due May 15, 2017.
These grants are made possible in part by funding from the Vermont Community Foundation and the High Meadows Fund. In addition to grant making, the foundation funds will be used to pursue additional strategies to connect residents of housing funded by VHCB with healthy, local food.
VHCB’s Food Access & Affordable Housing Initiative began in 2014, when VHCB used support from the Vermont Community Foundation, the High Meadows Fund and the Congressional Hunger Center to convene regional gatherings in Brattleboro, Rutland, and the Northeast Kingdom. Housing providers, food systems groups and residents identified the primary barriers to food security for low-income Vermonters: the high cost of healthy foods, a lack of transportation, and unfamiliarity with eating and preparing many available healthy food options. A report by Emerson Hunger fellow Melanie Meisenheimer, Integrating Food Access & Affordable Housing, summarizes the obstacles and the opportunities for new collaborations to address these barriers.
An initial round of grants in 2016 supported the following collaborations:
· With a grant of $3,527, The Vermont Community Garden Network collaborated with Housing Vermont, the Cathedral Square Corporation, and the North Avenue Co-op, bringing together residents and staff to plan new gardens and improve existing ones at Southview Apartments in Springfield, Peter Coe Village in Middlebury, Kelley’s Field in Hinesburg, and North Avenue Co-op Mobile Home Park in Burlington.
· United Children’s Services, home to Bennington County Head Start, used a $2,963 grant to offer cooking classes for residents of Willow Brook, a Bennington Housing Partnerships family rental housing property.
· Housing Vermont used $6,950 in grant funds to plant a community orchard at Southgate Apartments in Springfield. Partnering with NOFA-VT, they hosted seven community meals and food access conversations at affordable housing sites in Springfield, Barre, Windsor, Bradford, Middlebury, St. Johnsbury and Bennington.
· A grant of $1,560 helped the Lamoille Housing Partnership provide nutrition and cooking classes at four senior housing sites using seasonal vegetables available at local supermarkets where residents shop.
For more information, visit vhcb.org/food-access.html
photo: Residents at Kelly's Field in Hinesburg meeting to plan for their community garden.
The Vermont Housing & Conservation Board makes loans and grants for affordable housing and for the conservation of agricultural and recreational land, forest land, natural areas and historic properties. www.vhcb.org