The Vermont Foodbank wants to build our network’s capacity to handle more perishable foods, specifically fresh produce. Two network partners, the Mary John Children’s Center and the Williamstown Food Shelf, recently received a grant from the Vermont Foodbank Special Needs Fund and purchased refrigerators. We asked them to share their stories.

Mary Johnson Children’s Center

by Barbara Saunders

For the past 45 years, Mary Johnson Children’s Center has served families throughout Addison County. We serve a population that reflects our community. Fifty percent of the children enrolled in the Center are funded through state or federal subsidy. The Center serves more low-income children than any early childhood program in Addison County. Ten percent of the Center’s enrollment is either in foster care or in protective custody.Mary Johnson Children's CenterTo meet the considerable needs of the population we serve the Center has several ongoing initiatives. These include our RFD program, which was able to enhance its services thanks to the grant from the Vermont Foodbank.

RFD (Rural Fun Delivery) provides meals, social support, interactions, engaging activities and skills acquisition for over 100 children and youth daily at underserved, remote locations in rural Addison County throughout the summer.

Each day, around lunch time, a team arrives at the designated site in each of three trailer parks in Starksboro and at the Bridport Central School. They set up a tent and tables, unpack coolers of food and totes filled with activities and books. There is always a small crowd of young children and adults waiting to greet the staff. Once the younger children have gotten their lunches and settled in for crafts and story time, older youth slowly appear and amble down for a meal, frequently requesting a second lunch for my “cousin” who stayed back at the trailer. The program is designed to address hunger, poor nutrition, social skill-building and the attendant issues of rural isolation.

At the end of the session, the van in Bridport makes deliveries to a handful of local farms that employ migrant workers. They distribute meals to the children of these workers.

RFD serves children from age two through age 18. Started in the summer of 2014, the program is a “drop by” program and our