Feeding Families, Building Communities, Growing Economies

A story from the Vermont Community Foundation.

Fresh, local food is all the rage – and rightly so. Farmers markets are on the rise – up 180 percent between 2006 and 2014 – as are food hubs, enterprises that aggregate locally sourced food to meet wholesale, retail, and institutional demand. Despite these trends, affordable, healthy food remains out of reach for many families across America. This is true even in states like Vermont, which rely on agriculture as a key economic driver. There, one in five children are at risk of hunger and 60 percent of adults are obese. A few years ago, the Vermont Community Foundation saw this disconnect and decided it was time to make a change – both to increase access to healthy foods and to build the food sector as an employer and economic development base in the state.

Click here to access the PowerPoint.

In 2012, the Foundation launched the Food & Farm Initiative, a five-year campaign working at the nexus of hunger, health, and the state’s agricultural tradition to connect all Vermont families with healthy, local food – regardless of where they live or what they earn. Through research, partnerships, grants, and investments, the Initiative aims to empower all Vermonters to feed their families with nutritious food and do so in a way that sustains local farmers and builds healthy communities.

In just two-and-a-half years, the Foundation has invested $1 million through grants – some up to $75,000, which is big for the small foundation – to collaborative projects with potential for statewide impact on the food system. VCF convenes grantees throughout the year to build a community of learning and help elevate the local food conversation across the state.

Halfway through its five-year campaign, VCF already sees stronger partnerships between food security and local food organizations, increased organizational capacity among its grantees, and more investments going toward projects that help build the state’s agricultural sector. In terms of economic impact, Vermont’s food system is growing. From 2009 to 2013, the state saw a 7.2% increase in food systems employment and a 5.9% increase in food system establishments. Vermont families have increasing access to fresh, affordable food, and children are receiving healthier, local meals in schools. Through its Food & Farm Initiative, the Community Foundation is feeding families, building communities, and growing economies, all at the same time.