Recognizing the importance of adapting and innovating in this challenging time, we're highlighting five new models that have emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic to promote and support farm to school, farm to early care and education (ECE), and farm to food bank. Read on for  insights, lessons learned, and ideas for new partnership and collaboration that can keep farm to school moving during a time when everything feels like it's changing.

Sheila Humphreys (left) of Food Connects and Ali West (right), WSESD Food Service Director and Fresh Picks Cafe, unload food for the first week of the weekend foodbox program. Photo courtesy of Conor Floyd

Story submitted by: Conor Floyd, Farm to School Program Manager at Food Connects in Brattleboro, Vermont.

In Brattleboro, Vermont, there is a strong network of anti-hunger organizations that provides relief to families both before the COVID-19 pandemic and especially now. Organized through the Hunger Council, the network collaborates to best meet the growing food security needs of its community.  

"Many people are needing help for the first time,” noted Christine Colascione, of Foodworks. “Navigating the charitable food system can be difficult for many—either knowing who to call or the stigma associated with accessing help.”

On a Hunger Council call, Sheila Humphreys of Food Connects wondered about the needs that families were communicating with Ali West, Brattleboro Town Food Service Director,  and whether families were being served by Foodworks or if they were falling through the cracks. Out of those questions, an idea began to take shape. Could Foodworks and the Windham Southeast Supervisory Union (WSESU) meal program work together to determine which families were not already receiving regular food deliveries from Foodworks, and launch a new, collaborative program to deliver food to these families through the school meal program delivery system?

Members of the Food Team pose for a physically distant photo. The team consists of staff from Food Connects, the VT Foodbank, Foodworks, and Fresh Picks Cafe. Photo courtesy of Conor Floyd

Within a week, a new “Food Team” was formed with staff from WSESU Food Service, Foodworks, Food Connects, and the Vermont Foodbank, and they quickly came up with a plan. Using Foodworks’ existing account with the Foodbank, and with additional grant funding supplied by the Foodbank, Christine launched a new delivery program to families, managed and distributed by Ali West via the Academy School meal site.

"Through our existing relationships with area schools and local charitable food organizations, Food Connects was able to build upon existing systems and cover a nutritional gap in our community. This was only possible with the help of our amazing partners and we're proud of how quickly our community jumped into action." - Conor Floyd, Food ConnectsThe Food Team was able to reflect on the systems and steps that were in place that supported the rapid deployment of folks and resources to meet the needs of over 130 families. Their reflection includes the following recommendations:

  • Start with existing connections
  • Identify key action teams
  • Leverage existing resources
  • Think about sustainability

Read more about this initiative from Food Connects.