You should feel good about the impact you have as a philanthropist — donating, volunteering, and advocating for our Vermont neighbors and their food needs. But the Vermont Foodbank also develops partnerships beyond food that help our neighbors fulfill their desire to contribute to our shared community. An exciting new project called Collaborating for Clients (C4C) is one such partnership. I was asked by Feeding America, the national network of food banks, to participate on the C4C steering committee, which, with financial and program support from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation and research support from the Urban Institute, is investigating a national framework to support families in living sustainable and stable lives.
Research shows that enough food, health care, housing, and employment for those able to work is the essential foundation for family sustainability and stability. There are many groups working on these issues, from the national to the local level; however, this work often happens in silos. The C4C steering committee is focusing on discovering how existing supports and programs can be coordinated to provide a more seamless platform for our clients to find stability.
Our challenge is this: collaboration is hard. Nonprofit organizations, business partners, and government partners all have their own interests, goals, strategies, and personalities. It can take time — years, even — to build the relationships and trust necessary for effective collaboration. Each partner in a collaboration brings something important to help reach a recognized goal; however, one of the largest barriers to overcome can be the fact that each organization must also give something up to reach a shared outcome. When we focus on the real outcome — in this case healthy, food-secure families contributing to our communities — we all see that the effort is worth the outcome. Food banks bring food and logistics to the table. The next step in the C4C process is to start “dating” some potential national partners and fine-tuning the research.
This work is only possible because of philanthropists who are willing to look beyond immediate results and take risks. Your support of the Vermont Foodbank and our history of effectiveness and innovation puts us in a position to influence a new project at the national level. Ours is truly a partnership in which everyone benefits. Our neighbors have access to fresh food and food staples, provided through direct programs such as the Commodity Supplemental Food Program for our seniors and BackPack for our children in school, and through our 270 network partners.
In these trying times, with reductions in 3SquaresVT and the possibility of massive additional cuts in the farm bill, challenges at the state Agency of Human Services, and a reduction in donated food, we are counting on you to keep our neighbors fed, our communities strong, and innovative programs moving forward.
Please give today. One dollar helps us provide three meals to Vermonters in need.