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Green Mountain Farm-to-School Launches New Initiatives to Fight COVID-19 Food Insecurity in the Northeast Kingdom

www.greenmountainfarmtoschool.org

NEWPORT, VT
Contact: Jessica Weston, jweston@gmfts.org, (802) 334-2044
July 20, 2020

Green Mountain Farm-to-School (GMFTS), a small nonprofit organization seeks to mitigate COVID-related food insecurity and promote the use of local food in the Northeast Kingdom through various new and emerging initiatives. This includes running a free summer meal site for children 18 and under all summer long, facilitating a “Market Basket” produce give away featuring crops grown in GMFTS’s own school gardens, and distributing fresh, local food to area food pantries through Green Mountain Farm Direct (GMFD), a local food hub run by GMFTS.

GMFD works to connect local farms with schools, restaurants, and institutions across Northern Vermont to help increase farms’ sales and boost consumption of local food in the region. By fostering partnerships and establishing distribution infrastructure, GMFD serves as a resource for farmers to bridge the gap between production and distribution. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic caused a substantial loss of sales and income for local farmers as schools and restaurants closed. The economic repercussions have also left many individuals in the community without enough food to feed their families.

Thanks to an $11,000 grant from the Federal CARES Act Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP), GMFD will be able to purchase, process, and deliver healthy, locally produced foods for food pantries in Caledonia, Orleans, and Essex Counties. This will help fight growing food insecurity in our region, while simultaneously supporting local farmers that have lost access to markets.

“Our plan is to start making deliveries and donations of food later in the fall when we expect food pantries will begin to see shortages and higher demand” said Catherine Cusack, Executive Director of Green Mountain Farm-to-School.

GMFD has also been sourcing local food for the statewide Farmers Feeding Families (FFF) Food Box program in collaboration with many organizational partners, including the Vermont Foodbank and The Abbey Group. Each week, GMFTS aggregates, packages, and distributes 300 boxes full of fresh, local produce to folks in the Northeast Kingdom.

The Lunchbox food truck, another program run by GMFTS, provides free, healthy to-go meals for all kids 18 and under throughout the summer months, and offers affordable meals for adults to purchase. The Lunchbox is set to run from June 17th through August 6th, with weekly sites in Derby, Newport, Barton, and 3 dates in Brownington.

On July 24, 31, and August 7, from 11:30am – 1:30pm each day, GMFTS will host a free meal site for all children 18 and under at the Orleans Federated Church in Orleans, VT, in collaboration with the Abbey Group and Orleans Central Supervisory Union. Similar to the Lunchbox, adults can come pick up a free to-go lunch and breakfast for children.

After a successful pilot year in 2019, GMFTS has secured more funding to operate the Market Basket at the Lunchbox, thanks to grants from the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation and the Oakland Foundation. The Market Basket will provide free local produce on a first-come, first-serve basis for the public at all Lunchbox sites except Tuesdays. All fruits and veggies available for the taking will be harvested from GMFTS’s 16 school gardens and purchased from GMFD’s local farm partners.

“We are so happy to be able to provide fresh, healthy, local food options to everyone in our community through all of our initiatives and programs” said Amrita Parry, Food Hub Logistics Coordinator and Lunchbox Manager. “It also is so important to support our local agricultural economy and the wider community during such challenging times.”

GMFTS is thankful for the support from its community, sponsors, and farm partners that allow for meaningful COVID-19 relief and assistance in the NEK.

Learn more about these programs at:
www.greenmountainfarmtoschool.org