The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources and the Vermont Foodbank announced today a 40% increase in food donations in 2016, topping the 25-30% increase seen in 2015. This announcement colorful root vegetables for donationcomes during September’s Hunger Action Month. It confirms healthier, fresher foods like fruits, vegetables and frozen meat, are making their way into refrigerators and onto plates of Vermonters in need.

“The energy around these new partnerships is contagious. Vermont’s Universal Recycling Law is making lives better, improving nutrition and choice at food shelves, and reducing waste at landfills,” said Deb Markowitz, Secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources.

The Vermont Foodbank started its Fresh Rescue Program in 2014 when it faced challenges managing growing amounts and types of donated food.  Hannaford Supermarkets, for example, had perishable food to donate that was difficult for the Foodbank to retrieve because of its volume, location, and the frequency of pick-ups needed. At the same time, Vermont’s Universal Recycling law was beginning to take effect for large grocery stores.  Said John Sayles, CEO of Vermont Foodbank, “To address this challenge, we activated our statewide network of agencies, connecting partner food shelves and meal sites directly with area Hannaford Supermarkets to keep perishable food local.”

In 2016, Lieutenant Scott Murray of the Salvation Army of Greater Burlington Area reported, “We are spending less than $500 a month on food and we’ll serve around 40,000 meals this year. That works out to a food cost per meal of under $0.07 versus about $1.47 two years ago. And the quality of what we’re serving is so much better than before we started getting these particular fresh food donations — healthy and nutritious meals, fresh fruits and vegetables and new dinner offerings such as kale, pork, chicken and so much more. This program has changed how we cook, what we serve, and benefits so many people. There is no way we could afford to buy the same food as is donated.”

Northwest Family Foods, a food shelf program serving Franklin and Grand Isle Counties, recently reported a 55% increase in food shelf visits after being a pilot pickup location for the Fresh Food Rescue Program. They attribute the increase not to new visitors, but to more frequent use by those already being served, in part because they were able to offer better fresh food, more reliably than ever before.

The Milton Family Center, another pilot pickup location of the Prog