Food. Every Language Has A Word For It.

This post was written by Henry Mai who has been working with the Foodbank’s 3SquaresVT team as an Americorps Vista this past year.

Food: Every language has a word for it. How do you say it? This is the titling on our newest 3SquaresVT multi-lingual flyer. On the other side, the half sheet features a short blurb about how to connect with food help, translated into seven languages.

At the beginning of this year, the Vermont Foodbank received a grant from the state to increase our support for populations disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. The 3SquaresVT outreach team committed to increasing our efforts to reach racial and ethnic minority populations across the state.

We have adopted various systems that encourage language access to food support programs. We have contracted with an over-the-phone interpretation service that gives us the capacity to take calls and answer questions in any language. This service is also available to our network partners. Our website can now be translated into seven different languages at the click of a button (you can try it down below in the lower right-hand corner of your screen). It is our goal to continue making 3SquaresVT and other food support programs available to everyone in the state, no matter what barriers they face.

Because not everyone is eligible for 3SquaresVT, our multi-lingual flyer directs people to our general food help page. The page offers multiple pathways to food assistance. The Commodity Supplemental Food Program is a federal project where applicants 60 years or older can pick up a free box of food staples each month. Our Full Plates VT program also provides a monthly box of food with few eligibility requirements.  VeggieVanGo is a program through which people can pick up fresh produce at scheduled locations, they just need to show up!

Enrolling in 3SquaresVT has significant benefits. Food access isn’t just about quantity, it’s also about quality. Everyone should be able to choose and purchase the foods they like to eat. Across the state, food shelves and programs embedded in multi-cultural communities have found innovative ways to incorporate culturally appropriate food into their offerings. 3SquaresVT helps folks purchase the food they know and love. For new Americans, it may give the capacity to purchase more familiar ingredients and cook culturally significant food. Even for families not used to cooking with those ingredients, 3SquaresVT can give people freedom to experiment with new recipes!

It’s exciting to share all these new language access features, but Vermont Foodbank has more work to do for connecting with racial and ethnic minority communities across the state. There are already a variety of support organizations for these communities that do incredible work offering employment assistance, benefits assistance, housing assistance, general services, and ensuring that Vermont is the welcoming state we know it can be. Although my VISTA year is coming to an end, I’m excited to see how Vermont Foodbank continues to grow and develop to support all the great work that is already happening across the state.

To learn more about 3SquaresVT, our friendly specialists are ready to answer your questions and, if you like, guide you through the application process. To reach us call 855-855-6181 (toll free), email 3SVT@vtfoodbank.org, text VFBSNAP to 85511, or fill out our inquiry form. On our website, keep an eye out in the bottom right corner to see our translation feature!