HOPE: Homegrown for the Holidays

Grant Amount: $1,500

For more than 50 years, HOPE has been providing vital assistance to low income people in Addison County. Our mission is to improve the lives of people in Addison County, Vermont, working with individuals to identify and secure the tools and resources needed to meet their basic needs. HOPE is a locally controlled, private, non-profit organization that provides a wide and changing array of services to more than 3,000 low income people each year, including food, clothing, housing, employment needs, medical needs, and much more. HOPE's charity resale store provides free or low-cost items to people who cannot afford them. It also generates revenue to support HOPE's poverty relief work, as anyone is welcome to shop at the store. HOPE consistently collaborates with other local organizations to avoid duplication of services and to ensure that our limited resources are targeted most effectively to meet a client's needs.

HOPE operates the largest food shelf in the county. In 2018, our food shelf provided food for over 72,000 meals. Despite the high level of usage that our food shelf sees, there are still many in our community who are hungry and who cannot afford to feed themselves and their families adequately. We believe that with the amount of locally grown and produced food in our county, no one should be going hungry. HOPE's strategic plan maintains a clear emphasis on providing access to healthy food for low income Addison County families. Specifically, our goal is to provide greater amounts of fresh, locally grown food to more people who need it, and to help our clientele improve their ability to prepare healthy meals for their families. Attached is a recent annual report from HOPE that includes some compelling feedback from low income people on the value of the fresh fruits and vegetables they are able to procure from HOPE's food shelf.

Homegrown for the Holidays

Description: For many years, HOPE has sought to make the winter holidays brighter for low income families in Addison County by organizing a Holiday Meal Box Program. Last year we distributed 357 holiday meal boxes during November and December and we anticipate that we will distribute a comparable number again this year. This popular program relies heavily on donations of food and funds so that we can provide turkeys (and sometimes hams) along with ingredients for folks to make a nutritious home-cooked holiday meal to share with their families. Along with a main protein and canned goods (such as green beans, corn, cranberry sauce, gravies and juices), we also include staple holiday produce in the boxes including, but not limited to, carrots, butternut squash, potatoes, apples, and onions.

Thanks to donations of gleaned or surplus produce that HOPE's Local Food Access Program gathers during the year, we have, at times, been able to include some locally grown produce with holiday meal boxes. However, we cannot predict or count on the quantity, quality, or timing of donated produce so we are often unsure how much produce will ultimately be available for the holiday boxes and sometimes we run out of items. Furthermore, when we have relied solely on gleaned produce to use during the holidays we have had to stockpile donated produce in an effort to have enough for both November and December holidays. Consequently, low income clients coming to our food shelf in the fall are rarely are able to find produce such as onions, potatoes, carrots or apples since we are trying to save these items for the holidays. And, since this is surplus and seconds of produce, we find that it can be of inconsistent quality and not store well. These challenges mean that we cannot always be equitable in the quality of what we include in holiday meal boxes. It also means that either some families go without something like potatoes at Thanksgiving, or we must purchase produce as affordably as we can from local supermarkets and it is often not locally produced.

This year, HOPE's goal is to offer high quality, locally grown produce in all of our holiday meal boxes to ensure that every low income family that receives the makings of a holiday meal can enjoy the benefits of locally produced fruits and vegetables, and that we can support our local food system by buying local. HOPE was recently awarded a $400 grant from the Vermont Foodbank to purchase produce directly from Addison County farms. We will use this grant to help cover part of the cost of purchasing local produce that would be included in holiday meal boxes. This grant requires that produce be purchased at wholesale or retail prices. Since $400 will only cover a portion of the projected cost of produce for use in our holiday meal boxes, we are seeking additional funds from City Market. Funds from City Market would support the inclusion of locally grown produce in holiday meal boxes by augmenting equitable purchasing from local producers, and supporting our efforts to glean and collect donated produce that we could make available in the months leading up to the holidays.