This year, the Vermont Foodbank is piloting a nutrition education program, VT Fresh, with 10 network partner food shelves across the state. VT Fresh will increase access and improve the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables at community food shelves.

The charitable food system is changing. For several decades, it has benefited from surplus production and manufacturing. In recent years, however, food production has become more efficient, and food banks have seen a decline in shelf-stable product donations. In addition, more and more Vermonters are relying on local food shelves and other charitable food sites to supplement their food needs on a regular basis. This change from an emergency food system to a predominately supplemental food system demands a new level of responsibility to provide the most nutritious and healthy food possible. Low-income Vermonters are especially at risk of poor nutrition and poor health outcomes. Fresh fruits and vegetables are a proven way to improve nutrition and health.

A primary goal of VT Fresh is to support participating food shelves in their effort to increase their capacity to handle fresh produce and to encourage their visitors to choose fruits and vegetables. Vermont Foodbank staff and volunteers will offer cooking demonstrations and taste tests two to three times per month at selected sites. We hope to engage visitors to community food shelves by providing them with an opportunity to taste dishes that feature a specific fruit or vegetable then take the recipe and main ingredients home that day. Food shelf visitors who have an opportunity to learn about healthy cooking, basic nutrition, and food safety will be empowered to make healthier food choices.

This interactive program will highlight evidence-based nutrition education strategies as well as resources and best practices that have been used successfully in the field. We will emphasize multiple educational approaches and include short and concise messages that are easy to understand. We will distribute family-friendly materials that encourage family meals and kids’ cooking as well as provide information on how to take advantage of additional food and nutrition assistance programs and resources.

VT Fresh will use Vermont Fresh: A Fruit and Vegetable Handbook, created in partnership with Salvation Farms and Sterling College. The publication includes history, storage tips, and recipes for a number of fruits and vegetables.

Everyone deserves an opportunity to eat VT Fresh. Your support is needed for programs like this.  Please consider helping the Vermont Foodbank today.