The Local Food program seeks innovative ways for communities to access affordable, fresh, nutritious, locally grown food, and for farmers to be fairly paid for what they provide. Our goal is to ensure that more high quality, sustainably-produced local food is available to all Vermonters. We use outreach, research and policy to build relationships between farms and food-insecure Vermonters, give farmers resources to help them work effectively with food access organizations, and identify policy actions to support getting Vermont-produced food to underserved Vermonters.
In partnership with UVM’s Expanded Food Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) we develop and distribute local food curriculum and outreach materials throughout the state. Classes are directed towards low income families and seniors. Lessons developed for the Around the Table, Senior Farm Share, and Senior Farm to Family Programs include local food recipes, how to shop for local food on a budget, and how to preserve local food for winter use.
Our policy research addresses farmers markets as well as federal, state, and community programs that increase food access for low income Vermonters. We identify opportunities for increasing the use of local food in these programs, thereby increasing local food access for low income Vermonters while developing the market for Vermont farmers.
We believe it is important to know how and why Vermont farmers contribute to alleviating food insecurity in the state. How are farmers measuring the economic impact of their discounts, donations and other efforts? What information are they collecting? Are their practices sustainable? This information will be used to develop programing that helps farmers help their communities more effectively.
We provide opportunities for communities to gather, celebrate, learn about food and engage in the conversation about food access and farm viability through statewide events such as Bounty: A Celebration of Vermont’s Farming Artists (2009-2010), our Local Food Accessibility in Sustainable Food Systems lecture series (2010-2011), Crop Mobs and other events.
In 2012, the Center embarked on the “Growing a Community that Feeds Itself” project in Caledonia County in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. Through this work we will first provide opportunities for area low income residents to learn about nutritious and healthy food choices, growing, cooking, and food preparation. Next, we will use this opportunity to explore the connection between small-scale bean production and participant knowledge of healthy food choices. And last, the program will present an opportunity for the area’s experienced bean growers to present their work to both workshop participants and other professional growers who do not yet grow dry beans. We believe that by increasing consumer knowledge of and demand for dry beans, we will create a new market for local farmers interested in producing this nutritious crop. This work is funded by the Specialty Crop Block Grant program, and builds upon the previous work of St. J. Area Local Food Alliance, and uses the “Growing Connections” curriculum developed by UVM Extension.For more information on the Center's work in food access and food systems in Vermont: