By KATE BARCELLOS
With 7,300 farms operating on 1.2 million acres of Vermont farmland, one might think the harvest would keep hunger at bay in Vermont.
But, one in eight people struggle with hunger in Vermont, and one in six children still go to bed hungry, according to Feeding America’s website.
So the Vermont Foodbank is contracting with nine Vermont farms in Rutland, Windham, Essex and Chittenden counties — as well as the Deep Root Organic Cooperative in Johnson and Intervale Food Hub in Burlington — to provide citizens with nourishing food grown locally.
“Over the last several years, we have built relationships with more than 80 Vermont farms that have been donating produce and partnering with our gleaning program to get more local produce to our neighbors who need it,” said Nicole Whalen, director of public affairs for the Vermont Food Bank.
“Through these partnerships, we distributed 465,000 pounds of Vermont produce in fiscal-year 2016,” she said in an email. “Through Vermonters Feeding Vermonters, we will deepen these partnerships to increase that figure dramatically.”
And farms are lining up to contribute, as demonstrated recently at the Hunger Action Conference 2018 at the Killington Grand Hotel.
“They were looking for in-state farms to be able to grow produce,” said Tony Risitano, sales manager at Deep Root Cooperative. “We applied to be a supplier, and will be growing four different crop types for them this year. We also applied in advance for the 2019 winter session, and will be supplying root crops for them after the first of the year.”
In Castleton, Dutchess Farm owner Steve Chamberlain said 1,500 pounds of green bell peppers will be coming from them.
“Feeding hungry people is a good cause, and we want to see more local produce out there,” he said. “We’ve worked with different food shelves for years, because we believe in donating to people who need it. It fits right into our mission.”
And from Dummerston, Read Miller said Dwight Miller and Sons Orchards is continuing its mission of spreading the wealth of health.
“We have made donations over the years, everything from salad greens to meat,” Miller said. “We thought this was a good opportunity to provide apples and fruit to people for an affordable price. We’re selling our produce at 60 to 70 percent of wholesale.”
Whalen said it’s good for Vermonters’ wallets.
“Every dollar spent on locally produced food contributes an additional 60 cents to the Vermont economy,” the Vermont Food Bank spokeswoman said. Whalen added that the Vermonters Feeding Vermonters pilot program multiplies $130,000 into $208,000 invested in Vermont’s economy.
“This will help support the farming economy, and our local food system,” she said. “This will strengthen the economy that supports us all, improving everyone’s chances of being able to thrive here and support themselves and feed their families.”