Rallying Around the Co-op Seedling Grants
In January, when you round up at the register, your donation will help to support a number of projects focused on strengthening our local food system through our Co-op Seedling Grants program. Now in its fifth year, this grant program has previously helped to fund a variety of projects including summer meal programming in Downtown Winooski, workforce development and training at Salvation Farms, gardening education at VCGN and HANDS, and many other worthy projects.
This past March, we awarded funding to six organizations including Burlington High School's Richard Meyer's Food Science Class, The Intervale Center, Janet S Munt Family Room, The Schoolhouse Learning Center, UVM Foundation, and Downtown Winooski. Below are updates from three of those projects.
The Intervale Center received $8,979.75 to invest in our kitchen to allow us to increase the impact of our community programs. We are happy to report that the kitchen is complete and functional, and the new equipment and layout is better supporting the level of food preparation, storage and clean-up in which our programs are engaged.
We began the remodel on schedule in March, finalizing the space design with a designer at Bouchard Pierce and purchasing appliances. In the end, we installed a dishwasher, catering refrigerator, and new range and hood. We also redesigned kitchen lay out so that staff heating up lunch could stay out of the way of staff preparing food for programs and added new countertops, an island, and a handwashing sink. Finally, we purchased new pots and pans, Tupperware, silverware, and a range of cooking implements to improve our ability to prepare food in the new space.
We administered a brief survey to staff members to understand the impact of the new kitchen on everyday users as well as programs. All 18 people who responded to the survey reported that the space was more functional. Specifically, many people noted the increased counter space, separation of work areas, dishwasher, catering fridge, adequate storage space, and hand sink as elements that increased the efficiency and ease of use.
The Seedling Grant supported Huertas’ summer initiative to 1) Support the consumption of fresh healthy food in farmworker households with limited access to and choice over healthy food options and 2) Promote community building and cross-cultural exchanges through developing a Food Access internship that supports nutrition education and produce utilization.
With the Seedling Grant funds, including an unexpected but much appreciated increase in total funds awarded, we were able to hire two part time summer interns to participate in the From Garden to Table project. Both individuals worked with Huertas in the spring semester, which prepared them to engage in outreach with the farmworker population. The interns began by coordinating the planting of 25 kitchen gardens throughout northern Vermont and began connecting with households interested in learning a new recipe or two. They also attended a class on teaching nutritious cooking in collaboration with the Vermont Department of Health and Healthy Roots out of St. Albans. They then met with an Outreach Professional from the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) program to received advice on planning, scheduling and executing cooking classes as well as what to purchase for the outreach cooking kit. Twelve cooking classes were offered with Huertas households incorporating vegetables and herbs grown by and of interest to participants. In addition, the interns assisted with the distribution of chickens to 6 households who participated in our chicken coop construction project the year before. (The opportunity to have chicken coops located at their homes has increased their autonomy and ability to decide for themselves what they eat and when. These Huertas participants come from communities in Mexico and Guatemala that maintain free-range chickens so the ability to raise, slaughter, and eat their own chickens in Vermont has been a connection back to their lifestyle and diet in their home country).
Participants were excited to participate and reported that they were happy to have new ideas and cooking knowledge to incorporate into their meals. The interns demonstrated and expressed professional growth as they took ownership of this project coordinating, planning, and executing the classes.
The Janet S. Munt Family Room is a parent child center providing programs that are accessible to all and flexible enough to meet the needs of our changing community. We support connection for parents and families, provide education, promote physical, social, emotional, and linguistic development in children, and nurture a vibrant and diverse community. Our Family Play program has been a vital program for families.
From May through September, our Family Play program moves from 20 Allen St. to the Ethan Allen Homestead in Burlington. This beautiful location gives families opportunities to garden, play outside, gain nutrition and cooking education, go on nature walks, eat healthy meals together and connect with others. Families can sign up for a free garden plot to grow the food they would like. We are able to supply seeds, seedlings, compost, fertilizer and tools to grow their gardens. Children can be found in the Rainbow garden where they get to plant, care for and harvest their own food.
Our staff and volunteers welcome all who come and are able to provide activities and care for children while parents work in their gardens. We are also able to provide transportation from the Family Room at 20 Allen Street and to Franklin Square, as well. A school bus picks up families, brings them to Family Play at the garden and brings them back. Since there isn’t public transportation to the Homestead, we are grateful to be able to provide this service.
We work with Vermont Adult Learning and Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program to provide English classes in our outdoor program. While parents are learning English, their children are running and playing outside and are in close proximity to their parents. Vermont Community Garden Network has been supporting our programs by doing cooking demos, making pesto, salsa and tortillas from scratch with families and working with parents to help them better grow their gardens. This year, the Vermont Foodbank provided free produce and samples for everyone. We are grateful for all of our collaborations.
The City Market Seedling grant award of $6,721 allowed for us to purchase three new picnic tables, shovels, gardening tools, kid-sized tools, a portable stove, kitchen utensils for outdoor cooking, and mortars and pestles. We were also able to begin construction on our new shade structure.
In March of 2019, we will award grant funding to seven projects from the host organizations listed below. These projects were reviewed and selected by a committee of Co-op Members comprising our Co-op Seedling Grants Committee. Thank you for rounding up this January and supporting these worthy initiatives!
Community Health Centers of Burlington: $1,500
Howard Center: $1,500
Age Well: $2,500
Winooski Partnership for Prevention: $2,500
United Way of Lamoille County: $7,000
UVM Plant & Soil Science: $7,500
Milk with Dignity: $7,500