The Vermont Foodbank and Feeding America, a nationwide network of food banks, today announced the launch of Collaborating for Clients, a groundbreaking initiative that is bringing nonprofit organizations together in an effort to reduce hunger and improve the lives of low-income families. Partners in the Collaborating for Clients initiative will work to address food insecurity and will help families find affordable housing, job training, steady employment, and health care services.

“The Vermont pilot, the Cal-Essex Accountable Health Community, is a truly community-driven effort to envision a healthy Northeast Kingdom and then have citizens and organizations work collectively to make it happen,” said John Sayles, Vermont Foodbank CEO. “Success won’t be measured by one organization getting what it wants, but by collectively changing the systems that may serve individual interests, but don’t move the whole community ahead. This is the beginning of a long, winding journey, and the Vermont Foodbank is grateful for the privilege to participate. We are also thankful for the support from Feeding America that is creating a strong base for future change here in Vermont and across the country.”

“Our network’s core service of food distribution provides essential assistance to millions of vulnerable and food-insecure people every week, but this traditional food assistance model is not achieving an end to hunger in this country,” Maura Daly, Chief External Affairs Officer for Feeding America, explained. “Hunger is a complex issue that does not exist in isolation. When people visit food pantries, they are not only struggling to put food on the table, they are often struggling to pay for rent, utilities, childcare, and medical bills. By integrating our services with those of other programs, we believe that we can help to improve our clients overall well-being.”

This fall, Feeding America is launching Collaborating for Clients pilot programs through five local food banks in various regions of the country. In addition to the Vermont Foodbank, participating food banks include:

• Mid-Ohio Foodbank in Columbus
• Food Bank of Northern Nevada in Reno
• The Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina in Winston-Salem
• Food In Need of Distribution (FIND Food Bank) in Indio, California

“These pilot programs will help us learn how food banks can best work with other partner organizations to make significant and measurable change in the communities they serve. Our goal is to bring together our expertise and broad reach to improve the stability of people across the country,” Daly said.

The pilot programs are expected to last for three years and are funded by a $4.4 million grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF).

“Our work at the Laura and John Arnold Foundation is focused on addressing the root causes of pressing social problems,” LJAF Vice President of Public Accountability Josh McGee explained. “In order to reduce hunger, we must not only provide families with their next meal, we must target the underlying issues that can lead to hunger in the first place. The Collaborating for Clients initiative is designed to do just that. It will offer wrap-around services to help families achieve a stable and prosperous future.”

Among the fundamental barriers to eradicating hunger in America is that food insecurity—defined as not having sufficient financial and supporting resources to access adequate and nutritious food on an ongoing basis—typically is just one of many challenges low-income people face.

According to the USDA, more than 48 million people in the United States are food insecure. Food pantries that were once considered a resource for temporary food assistance have become a part of many households’ regular coping strategies to put food on the table.

Feeding America is working to address this issue and recently adopted a new 10-year goal to provide access to enough nutritious food for everyone struggling with hunger and to improve food security for the people served to help them stabilize their lives.