Healthy Roots Collaborative celebrating Franklin and Grand Isle’s participation in innovative COVID relief program
St. Albans - On Thursday April 29, Vermont Everyone Eats, an innovative COVID-19 response program, is celebrating one million restaurant meals served to Vermonters experiencing food insecurity. The program was launched in August 2020 with an allocation of $5 million of the state’s Coronavirus Relief Fund contracted by the Agency of Commerce and Community Development to Southeastern Vermont Community Action Agency. The program would have expired in December, but widespread community support and advocacy empowered program and state partners to secure additional funding through FEMA and the program has been extended through the state of emergency.
Catherine Dimitruk, Executive Director of the Northwest Regional Planning Commission, sees the lasting impact the program will have on the region, “The Everyone Eats program allowed Franklin and Grand Isle Counties to rethink what addressing hunger looks like. It was a community effort that required support and investment from the eaters, the makers, and the growers. Everyone’s role was equally important to ensure we kept the community connected, strong, and vital in a very difficult time.”
Vermont Everyone Eats program design draws on many of Vermont’s strengths. It puts Vermont’s independent restaurants and robust local food system at the center of feeding their communities. Over 200 Vermont restaurants have contributed to the one million meals, which have contained nearly $1 million of Vermont ingredients.
Tessa Hill, co-owner for The Drake in St. Albans, has experienced first-hand what role VEE has played in the community, “Everybody Eats is one of the few silver linings to come out of the pandemic; it supports local farmers, restaurants and citizens by bringing them together. It is providing financial stability to our restaurant; an oasis in unstable times. The best part about Everybody Eats is the way that it empowers our business to follow our mission and reach new members of our community.”
The program was created and has developed through powerful, cross-sector, public-private partnerships. 14 community “hubs” execute the programming on the ground in all 14 Vermont counties. These hubs represent hundreds of community organizations who are working together to contract meals from participating restaurants, manage delivery logistics, promote the program, and ensure the meals are delivered safely to meal recipients. Jean Hamilton, Vermont Everyone Eats Statewide Coordinator acknowledges the important role of the community hubs, “Vermont is well-known for its community organizations and thank goodness for them. In less than 9 months, our program was launched from a concept to this moment, 1 million local meals delivered to neighbors all across our state. We were able to do this because of the community organizations that stepped up and got right to work. They are the backbone of our community resilience.”
Hamilton sees this moment to celebrate the collective action of the program: “It is the people behind VEE that we are really celebrating today. Starting with the individuals who were courageous enough to step forward and ask for help, the meal recipients and the restauranteurs, to the farmers and food producers, the lawmakers and agency staff, the members of our statewide taskforce, and especially the hub organizers and volunteers – Vermont Everyone Eats is a model of how our communities can rise up together holding our shared vulnerability as an inspiration for progress. Who is your Everyone Eats hero? Please join us in celebrating them today.”
For more information about Healthy Roots Collaborative’s participation in Vermont Everyone Eats visit https://shiftmeals.org/everyone-eats/.
For more statewide information about Vermont Everyone Eats visit www.vteveryoneeats.org.