Partnering with Feeding Chittenden
By John Tashiro, General Manager
The sun rising later in the mornings, the cooling of the weather, leaves starting to change into bright red, orange and yellows, and groups of school children bounding along the sidewalks, all the signs that September is here! And how I can’t wait to go to the various harvest festivals and fall celebrations over the next couple of months as we hear the frequent honking of geese up above as they begin their journey South!
Recognizing that we can all get wrapped up in the busyness at the Co-op this time of year with food and festivities, I just wanted to take a moment and acknowledge the tremendous work of our 24 Community Outreach Partners. From organizations ranging from the Burlington School Food Project, Hunger Free Vermont and King Street Center to Vermont Community Garden Network, New Farms for New Americans and NOFA-VT, the Co-op has and continues to focus our efforts on alleviating hunger (particularly childhood hunger) and supporting local food systems. You may be aware that one of our long-time partners, the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf, just went through a name change last month after a significant listening campaign to gather input on their future direction from their stakeholders. They collected information about the changing needs of those they serve and their role in the broader community, and as a result, changed their name to Feeding Chittenden to better reflect the varied work and advocacy they undertake. We thought it would be timely to share their history in brief and highlight the work they do, as people are often surprised to learn about the variety of programs, the volume of people they serve daily and their mission of providing more than just food to people who are facing food insecurity and hunger.
In operation since 1974, Feeding Chittenden was founded as the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf (CEFS) to help fight hunger and food insecurity faced by households in the Burlington area. What initially started as a small pantry program that provided a three-day supply of groceries to households once a month, they saw a growing need for hunger relief services over the years. This led to two relocations including a move in 1994 to its current location at 228 North Winooski Avenue in Burlington. Since then, they began serving a hot breakfast every weekday and expanding support and outreach services. In 1998, they launched the Homebound Delivery Program to help low-income, homebound seniors and adults with disabilities access their services. In 2009, CEFS partnered with the Vermont Foodbank to operate the 1st session of Community Kitchen Academy (CKA). CKA was designed to address two critical needs: providing low-income Vermonters with professional culinary job training and job placement support, and providing high-quality, nutritious meals at no cost to food-insecure Vermonters. In 2015, the Good Food Truck went out onto the road for the first time to expand healthy food access and critical outreach services to underserved, low-income communities throughout Chittenden County. The Truck now serves thousands of meals each year and provides outreach services throughout the area. In addition, they have two other initiatives including Food Rescue that helps fight food waste locally by working with local markets and farmers to save over 10,000 pounds of edible, nutritious food every month, and Service Coordination that provides program referrals, case work and support to their guests who need additional services.
The Co-op has been partnering with Feeding Chittenden for decades now, supporting their efforts by being a food collection site for customer donations and by collecting donations from customers at the registers. In October 2014, we shifted our register donation program and launched the Rally for Change program. Through this program, Feeding Chittenden was designated as a 40% partner recipient of all money donated when customers round up their totals to the next whole dollar. This subsequently changed to 50% as of March 2016 in light of the growing need for their services in the community. Over the past five years, we have donated over $475,000 directly to Feeding Chittenden through this partnership. In addition, the Co-op also donates many food items that are still edible but for whatever reason can no longer be put for sale. As Feeding Chittenden continues their great work under new branding, we look forward to exploring new ways to see how best we can support their work.
Save the date! We’ll host our Annual Member Meeting on Thursday, October 3 at the ECHO Center. Join us for mingling, music, games, drinks and a light dinner, some information sharing with time for questions, and the company of other Members. You’ll have an opportunity to hear from and talk to current Board Members as well as Board candidates. Since Board Elections run from October 1 through October 21, you’ll be able to vote online right at the Member Meeting if you’d like. Voting is an important benefit of Co-op Membership and we count on your participation! We have seen quite a number of Board candidates at our recent Board meetings and orientation sessions. Postcard invites for Member Meeting will be in your mailboxes soon and the Board Elections Flyer will follow shortly behind! Our entire team is grateful for our Board’s guidance to help steward the Co-op into its next evolution and we look forward to welcoming new and returning Board Members in January (when new terms start).
As always, THANK YOU to you all for your support of the Co-op! You keep our stores bustling and continue to offer us the opportunity to give back to the community. We are committed to continuously improving and we rely on your feedback to do just that! I look forward to seeing you at the Co-op and hopefully at the Annual Member Meeting!