VeggieVanGo Arrives In Randolph!
Earlier this month the Vermont Foodbank’s VeggieVanGo program arrived in Randolph at Gifford Medical Center. The following reflections were submitted by two University of Vermont graduate students, Anna Jursinic and Natalie Mashia, both of whom are enrolled in the dietetics program at the university. VeggieVanGo provides fresh and healthy foods at schools and hospitals around Vermont and we’re grateful for our dedicated interns such as Natalie and Anna who are working to ensure all people in Vermont have access to healthy food. VeggieVanGo will take place at Gifford Medical Center each month.
Experiencing The First VeggieVanGo Event At Gifford Health Care
As a UVM dietetics graduate student and intern, I have spent the last two weeks with the Vermont Foodbank. During this rotation, I had the opportunity to participate in some amazing VT Fresh events. One of my favorites was experiencing the first VeggieVanGo event with Gifford Health Care.
The overall mission of VeggieVanGo events is to “provide fresh and healthy foods to families at schools and hospitals around Vermont.” These events work to promote fresh produce and conversations centered around healthy food and nutrition. In addition to providing fresh foods, VeggieVanGo events also provide education and outreach to improve food security in partnership with other community programs and outreach strategies.
At Gifford Medical Center the VeggieVanGo tables and booths were centered near the visitors’ entrance in a semi-circle that welcomed community members to walk through the event. Each table included colorful displays and promoted the availability of the fresh fruits and vegetables. The event also included large bins full of thousands of pounds of fresh pineapple, corn, cucumber and peppers ready to be distributed to neighbors and community members. The VT Fresh cooking demonstration featured a pineapple corn salsa, promoting the fresh pineapple, corn, cucumber and peppers available that day.
There was a great turnout of community members all excited to learn more about the fresh foods offered and the outreach materials available. It was a great opportunity to inquire how the community members learned about the event, and many said they heard of the event through advertisements and word of mouth. This program is a great way for the Vermont Foodbank to interact and create connections with local community members and start a conversation about the importance of fresh and healthy diets.
Volunteering with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) outreach and VT Fresh table allowed me to gain first-hand experience interacting with the VeggieVanGo attendees. I especially enjoyed providing information about 3SquaresVT and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP). This allowed me to directly interact with community members and increase awareness of programs that can help increase food security. I also really enjoyed providing samples of the pineapple salsa as participants moved down the line of tables. Some people were hesitant or unwilling to try the recipe at first, however everyone who tried the salsa was surprised how tasty it was, many even said, “Wow! This is really good!”.
Through this VeggieVanGo event, I was able to really get to know community members and connect with them through fresh fruits and vegetables. I was able to start discussions with folks on the SNAP and CSFP benefits available to increase food security across Vermont. I also discussed ways to increase fresh fruit and vegetable consumption through simple nudges and quick tips. These conversations may have only been minutes long, but the positive impact may be long lasting. It was inspiring to see community members excited about fresh fruits and vegetables and how delicious they can be in a healthy diet. Without the VeggieVanGo program, these conversations and access to fresh fruits and vegetable may not be possible.
A New Location For VeggieVanGo!
Earlier this month the Vermont Foodbank’s first VeggieVanGo event took place at Gifford Medical Center. The sun was shining bright and everyone seemed very excited to be at this new location. I helped table for the VT Fresh Program. We offered samples of pineapple salsa for people to try, and it was a big hit. What was really cool about this recipe was the fact that most of the ingredients were available at this event. We also provided the recipe for the pineapple salsa, so people could make this recipe at home with the fresh produce they were able to pick up farther down the line.
It was an amazing experience to help out low-income individuals as they may have been food insecure and struggling with hunger. Encouraging them to try pineapple salsa and to grab a quick tips booklet on cooking with fresh veggies really made me feel like I had made an impact on these people. Even though it may have only been a tiny impact, I was still able to promote nutrition by being there. As a Master of Science in dietetics student and intern, nutrition means a lot to me and I think good nutrition is essential for every single person on this planet; providing this kind of information is really important because many people may not know how to incorporate fruits and vegetables into their diet, they may not have the income to afford it, or they may not have access to it. That is why the VeggieVanGo event and VT Fresh is so wonderful.
It was an incredible feeling to see people walk by our table with smiles on their faces, and that’s when I knew how much this event meant to them. Everyone has a right to fresh fruits and vegetables and today the VeggieVanGo event made that possible here in Randolph. From what I heard, over 140 people walked through today. I don’t know about you, but to me that seems like a pretty great success for it being the first time at this location. Even though this was my last week at the foodbank, I am hoping I will still be able to make impacts like this no matter what path I end up taking in dietetics. My two weeks here have been short, but they have been filled with experiences that I will never forget.