March is National Nutrition Month and we’re publishing a series of blog posts that focus on nutrition within our networks. You can also learn about our programs here.
The Vermont Foodbank’s School Food Pantry To-Go program started as a pilot during the spring of 2013 at the Winooski School. We chose this school because of the high percentage of children receiving free and reduced-price school meals. Because of this, we assumed that almost everyone would want to participate in the program and that we would be able to give out a good amount of healthy, fresh produce at each distribution to families in need.
Our School Food Pantry operates like a mobile farmers’ market. Foodbank staff members bring bins full of fresh produce bagged in 3- to 5-pound increments ready for children and families to pick up at the school. The program in Winooski operates for one hour twice a month. During this time, we distribute an average of 5,000 pounds and serve 250 to 300 children and families.
As the program in Winooski grew over the course of the 2013-2014 school year, we began strategizing about how to expand the program to more schools throughout the state. For the 2014-2015 school year, we added Molly Stark Elementary School in Bennington and Northwest Primary, Northeast Primary, Rutland Intermediate, and Rutland Middle Schools in Rutland. These new schools average around 80 families twice a month, and we distribute approximately 2,000 pounds of produce each time.
At any given School Food Pantry event, participants find carrots, potatoes, apples, corn, squash, celery, onions, peppers, and more. Families have commented that this program has helped their children eat foods they have never had the chance to eat before. Around the holidays, this produce can be a huge help for families. Parents commented that they would have had no Thanksgiving if it hadn’t been for the produce they received. Kids are elated to pick up this healthy food, sayings things like “My mom will be so proud of me!”
Programs like this would not be possible without your support. Please consider making a gift to the Vermont Foodbank today.