Since the fall of 2020, Vermont Everyone Eats been providing nutritious meals to Vermonters in need of food assistance as well as a stabilizing source of income for Vermont restaurants, farmers, and food producers. Healthy Roots has been a partner in the program from the start, and after almost two years we have distributed 58,500 meals. When the program started, most of the meals came from restaurants in Chittenden County, but over time we added more Franklin and Grand Isle restaurants and caterers. Partnering with Chittenden VEE Hub (currently run by the Intervale) gave Healthy Roots increased capacity to respond to the needs of our community by providing more meals, frozen meals, or certain types of meals when requested.
Now almost all the meals for our region are made in Franklin County. This has had an incredible impact for several of our local businesses. Susan LeClair, owner of Susan LeClair LLC Catering in St. Albans writes, “When the pandemic hit, my business was shuttered for five months with almost all my events for the year 2020 canceled.” She struggled to stay in business with help from grants and PPP, but just didn’t see how she would get through to the next wedding season. She says, “I was introduced to the Everyone Eats program through Healthy Roots and not only did the program save me, it allowed my business to grow. With the funds from Everyone Eats I have been able to feed my community, hire help and move my business into a new renovated space with drive by exposure. I feel that this program has opened so many doors for me. I have networked with other businesses to find local products, prepared local foods, and gotten to know my neighborhood better. I see the people I cook for in this program as I do some drop offs, and it’s such a win. [This program helps people because] it is hard to cook for one or two, effectively and cost smart.”
In F/GI Everyone Eats meals have been distributed by food shelves, meal programs including Martha’s Kitchen and CIDER, at Northwest Medical Center, senior living and long-term care facilities, and at several public distribution events (most recently held at Rail City Market). People can also use the Localvore Passport app to request meals at participating restaurants throughout the entire state. Distributing these meals has been a large undertaking. Some restaurants drop the meals off at nearby distribution sites and some sites pick up meals directly, but a large portion are delivered with the help of Healthy Roots Volunteers. Anne, who has delivered with Healthy Roots since the start of the pandemic writes, “I have found delivering meals for Everyone Eats to be an important and rewarding volunteer opportunity in many ways. It has provided an essential service for fellow Vermonters experiencing food insecurity, strengthened my sense of connection to the NW VT community, as well as introducing me to some beautiful areas of our state and people that I now feel familiar with and consider friends.”