New Farmers to Families Food Box Program Will Provide More Than 180,000 Boxes of Food to People in Vermont

Photo of Vermont National Guard loading boxes of food into a car with Farmers To Families Food Box Program text overlayed.

Barre, VT – This week, people in Vermont in need of food will receive the first boxes of fresh produce, milk, dairy products, and chicken through the USDA’s new Farmers to Families Food Box Program.

In April of 2020, the USDA announced the unprecedented program with the purpose of supplying locally sourced food to families in need during the COVID-19 pandemic. Working under a tight timeline, The Abbey Group, the Vermont Foodbank, the Vermont National Guard, the Healthy Roots Collaborative, Green Mountain Farm to School, Black River Produce, and local dairy processors worked together to bid on the program that will bring federal money into the state to purchase fresh food for people facing hunger.

On May 8th, 2020, The Abbey Group was selected as one of three approved contractors for the state of Vermont to carry out the federal program. They will provide 180,000 boxes of food to people facing hunger between now and the end of June, with the possibility of extension beyond that. The program functions by connecting local farmers who would have been selling their foods to restaurants and bulk purchasers to distributors. Those distributors then package and supply family-sized food boxes to local contractors such as The Abbey Group for final distribution to those in need. Before the announcement of this program, The Abbey Group has been working tirelessly to provide wholesome meals to kids 18 and under, through their local schools since their closure in March.

“The Abbey Group is no stranger to connecting local farmers to local families,” saysThe Abbey Group’s Vice President of Operations, Nina Hansen. “As a food service group whose mission is to deliver the highest quality meals, utilize agricultural products from local growers, promote healthy choices and demonstrate a high level of customer service, The Abbey Group has the homegrown infrastructure and knowledge to help the Farmers to Families Food Box Program serve for our fellow Vermonters during this time of uncertainty.”

School closures, rising unemployment and rising poverty caused the pandemic and economic recession is putting unprecedented stress on food budgets. In a recent University of Vermont study, it was estimated that food insecurity rose 33% due to the current pandemic.

“This pandemic is creating a food assistance emergency unlike anything we’ve ever seen since we opened our doors more than 30 years ago,” says Vermont Foodbank CEO, John Sayles. “We’ve seen increased of up to 800% in the number of people in need of food assistance and it is clear that the Foodbank and our statewide network of food shelves and meal sites will not be able to meet that need on our own. We are thrilled that the Farmers to Families program will provide a new way to connect local, fresh food with people who need it.”

The Farmers to Families food boxes will contain fresh produce, chicken, and dairy products and are open to anyone struggling to access food. Distributions will happen daily in locations throughout the state for the duration of the program. The State Emergency Operations Center and the Vermont National Guard are supporting the distributions, continuing the work they have been doing to provide FEMA MREs at locations around Vermont.

“For years, The Abbey Group has worked with a variety of local food producers both directly and indirectly. We do our best to prioritize direct relationships with these farms and producers whenever possible after satisfactory site inspections by our experienced personnel,” continues Nina Hansen.“The Farmers to Families Food Box Program taps into what we do best by creating an opportunity to call on our already established relationships with local farmers and producers to expand our reach. The Abbey Group is excited to step up and support our neighbors with the aid provided by the program.”

Distributions are currently scheduled through the rest of May in Berlin, Peru, Middlebury, Thetford, Morristown, Burlington, Brattleboro, Swanton, and Lyndonville. As this is a new program, and details may shift, anyone interested in attending these events is encouraged to visit the Vermont Foodbank’s website, for the most up to date distribution schedule. New dates and locations will be added as they are confirmed.

For more information regarding the Farmers to Families Food Box Program, visit the USDA’s website.


Vermont Foodbank is the state’s largest hunger-relief organization, providing nutritious food through a network of more than 300 community partners – food shelves, meal sites, schools, hospitals, and housing sites. Food insecurity has increased dramatically as a result of the pandemic, economic disruptions, and recent flooding. The Vermont Foodbank and its network have been on the front lines, working to ensure that everyone has the food they need to maintain their health. Last year, the Vermont Foodbank provided over 12 million pounds of food to people throughout Vermont. The Vermont Foodbank, a member of Feeding America, is nationally recognized as one of the most effective and efficient nonprofits and food banks in the nation.