July 2017

Spotlight on Woodstock Foods

We’re shining our Member Deals Spotlight on Woodstock Foods! Member-owners can enjoy 20% their full line of products from July 27th – August 7th. Read on to learn more about Woodstock Foods and their efforts to increase the availability of organic foods, support budding sustainable farmers, and preserve American farmland:

Woodstock Foods first began over 25 years ago with the belief that good food comes from simple ingredients farmed from trusted sources. They’ve seen a lot of food trends come and go over the years, but their timeless belief has remained the same:  Keep it simple and eat because it’s good!

They began with nut butter, but have since grown to offer over 250 products in 10 categories. Over 75%  of their products are USDA Organic and 145 products are Non-GMO Verified with over 80 more enrolled and awaiting certification.

At Woodstock Foods, they believe in the importance of honoring farmers and protecting farmland. With farmland conservation in mind, they’ve partnered with the American Farmland Trust (AFT). AFT has been a strong advocate for conservation practices and programs that preserve not just land, but also precious soil and water supplies. In the 35 years since AFT began, they’ve helped to save more than five million acres of farm and ranch land and contributed to conservation improvements on millions more.

Woodstock Foods also works with the Young Farmers Coalition and Food to Bank On, both serving to give new farmers the tools and resources needed to succeed. Their services allow budding farmers opportunities for business training, mentorship, and access to markets while also providing farm fresh products to food banks and shelters.

Be sure to check out the Woodstock Foods web page for great recipes and tips for making the most of their products!

Vermont’s First Surplus Crop Food Hub

Have you heard about Salvation Farms? They are a Morrisville-based not-for-profit organization driven by a mission to build increased resilience in Vermont’s food system through agricultural surplus management. Their founders recognized that Vermont has a tremendous amount of food that is currently available but underutilized. In fact, a 2016 study revealed that more than 14 million pounds of wholesome vegetables and berries grown in Vermont go uneaten each year. According to Salvation Farms Director, Theresa Snow, farms are producing in abundance but we have become so scrupulous about the food we send to market that much is being wasted through all parts of the supply chain from the farms, to the wholesalers, distributors, packhouses, and retail sites.

Additionally, Vermont has a great need to feed many of our state’s most vulnerable populations. An estimated 70,000 – 80,000 Vermonters live in food insecure households, meaning they don’t have regular access to nutritious food. According to Snow, we have more than enough food available but lack the infrastructure to make sure it’s processed and distributed equitably.  It became clear that an entity was needed to help capture and manage the surplus bounty and get it to the people in our community who need it most.

Salvation Farms was born in 2004 as a grassroots community-based gleaning project, operating as a pilot program for several years. The project grew each year in their scope and impact, gleaning millions of pounds of produce along the way. They continued to hone their successful gleaning model and build relationships that would eventually allow them to stand on their own legs as a federally-recognized non-profit organization in 2012. In September of 2016, they launched Vermont’s first surplus crop food hub and a workforce development program in a commercial kitchen space located in Winooski, VT. Staff members from our Co-op recently had the opportunity to tour this new facility and gain a first-hand account of the important work being done by Salvation Farms.

The new facility contains the equipment, staffing, and infrastructure to achieve two things:

  1. Move fruits and veggies that otherwise wouldn’t be eaten to Vermont’s food shelves and meal programs
  2. Offer a 4-month job training program that would provide trainees with work-readiness skills and valuable certifications that would aid them in securing long-term employment

Food loss on Vermont vegetable and berry farms totals 14.3 million pounds per year. Of this, 32% is never harvested and the remaining 68% is harvested but fails to make it to market. The produce left in the field is passed over due to blemishes, lack of labor, lack of storage space, or lack of time. The food that is harvested without making it to market is lost along the supply chain for various reasons including blemishes, lack of uniformity in size or appearance, lack of market demand, and spoilage. While loss is inevitable on farms given the many challenges presented by mother nature, loss on this scale can certainly be avoided.

Salvation Farms now has the capacity to capture this surplus either through gleaning efforts or other means and have it delivered to their Winooski facility, thanks to transportation provided by Black River Produce. Once it arrives at the food hub, the trainees work to wash, sort, process and repackage the produce. Some is in good enough shape to be repackaged and redistributed as fresh product, while other produce must move through the kitchen facility where it is chopped, peeled, frozen, and packaged for distribution. The finished product is then picked back up by the Black River Produce trucks and delivered to various budget-restricted local organizations who serve vulnerable populations.

Trainees at the Hub commit to a 4-month stint where they not only clean and pack Vermont produce, but also engage in interactive classroom trainings and study sessions where they learn more about food waste and the greater food system. They leave the program with industry-recognized certifications from OSHA and ServSafe, plus 1st aid and CPR training. These job readiness skills and credentials help instill a sense of pride and purpose while preparing the trainee for a more permanent role in the workforce.

Get Involved!

Salvation Farms funds all of this remarkable work by piecing together grants and donations from various businesses and individuals. If you’d like to donate or volunteer to help make their vision and mission possible, please visit the Salvation Farms web page. To register to become a gleaner, visit the Vermont Gleaning Collective web page.

According to Snow, “People make change possible. When addressing ills within systems we cannot take a narrow road to focus on addressing a symptom of those ills whether it is an issue like food loss or an issue like nutritional security. People – who engage in and reinforce large societal systems, like the food system – must play an informed part of the system. This creates true change and impacts the symptoms that make our society ache.”

 

 

Tour de Farms Gearing Up for 10th Annual Ride August 6th – Pre-registration closes July 28th

BRISTOL, Vt. –The 10th annual Tour de Farms, one of Vermont’s oldest biking and tasting tours of working farms, is in the final stages of preparation for Sunday, August 6th in Bristol, Vt.

The Tour will start at 8:30 a.m. and end at 4:00 p.m. at the Rec Club Field, next to Mt. Abraham High School. The route will feature nine farm stops and 31 farms, food producers and restaurants, including the Bobcat Café and Mary’s at Baldwin Creek, collaborating to provide riders with fresh samples of the summer’s bounty.

The 2017 Tour will make stops at Four Hills Farm, Vermont Tree Goods, Olivia’s Croutons, Smith Family Farm, Boyer’s Orchards, the Monkton Farmers Market, Last Resort Farm, Layn Farm and New Leaf Organics. A Farm Van will enable riders to purchase products directly from the farms without having to worry about how they’ll get them back to their car.

The ride will conclude with a celebratory after-party featuring live music by blues roots band, Left Eye Jump, dancing, Bristol’s Farmhouse ice cream, Fuego’s grilled local meat tacos and Lucky Star’s local vegetarian delights as well as local craft beverage producers, Shacksbury Hard Cider, Hogback Brewing, All Times Sparkling Cider and Huntington River Winery.

“The Tour is one of Vermont’s most unique and loved local food and farm experiences,” said Jonathan Corcoran, ACORN’s Executive Director and Tour co-founder. “Over 3,500 people have ridden the Tour to date. For the first timein ten years, we’re working with the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing to share the Tour with riders across New England, New York and Quebec. We are capping registration at 400 riders.”

The Tour de Farms is a rain or shine event. More details can be found at www.acornvt.org/tourdefarms. Advance registration is at https://www.bikereg.com/ and will close on July 28 at 5:00 p.m. The advance registration fee is $60 for adults and $35 for students and kids under 18. The on-site registration fee the day of the event is $75 for adults and $50 for students and kids.

 

The Tour is not possible without the support of 50-60 community volunteers who register riders, serve food at farms, photograph the Tour or ride as safety marshals. The link to sign-up is: www.signupgenius.com/go/30e0a4aadad2ba5f85-2017

The 2017 Tour is generously sponsored by Earl’s Cyclery and Fitness, AARP Vermont, All Times Sparkling Cider, City Market, Community Bank NA, IPJ Real Estate, Langrock, Sperry & Wool, and Skinny Pancake. Earl’s Cyclery will provide two support vans for cyclists. Frog Hollow Bikes will offer mechanical prep at the start.

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ACORN (Addison County Relocalization Network) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit community organization based in Middlebury, Vt. Its mission is to promote the growth and health of local food and agriculture in Vermont’s Champlain Valley. ACORN is working with growers, schools, businesses and community and statewide partners to double the consumption of locally-grown food by 2020. For more information, go to http://www.acornvt.org/.

 

TOUR DE FARMS: The Tour is ACORN’s top fundraiser of the year, and 25 percent of the proceeds from advanced registration go to participating farms on the Tour. The 2016 Tour was recently featured on Vermont PBS:http://www.vermontpbs.org/clip/4299.

Spotlight on Alaffia

We’re casting our Co-op Spotlight on Alaffia and alll of their Fair Trade Certified, Co-op-made body care products are 20% off for member-owners from July 20th – 26th! Many Alaffia products are already featured in our Co-op Basics program, so this Member Deals discount will be in addition to the everyday low price on those items! It’s a great time to stock up and save! Read on to learn more about Alaffia and their efforts to alleviate poverty and empower communities in West Africa through the fair trade of shea butter, coconut, and other indigenous resources:

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Alaffia was founded in 2004 with Fair Trade as the fundamental foundation of their organization, which is comprised of the Alaffia Village in Sokodé, Togo; the Alaffia Coconut Cooperative in Klouvi-Donnou, Togo; and the Alaffia headquarters in Olympia, Washington. Their cooperatives handcraft indigenous raw ingredients , and the Alaffia team in Olympia creates the finished products. Proceeds from the sales of these products are then returned to communities in Togo, West Africa, to fund community empowerment and gender equality projects.

What impact have your Alaffia purchases had in these communities thus far?

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Each year in West Africa, 160,000 women die due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Over her lifetime, an African woman has a 1 in 32 chance of dying in pregnancy or childbirth, compared to 1 in 2,400 in Europe (UNICEF, 2012). There are several reasons for the high maternal mortality rates in sub-Saharan Africa, including extreme poverty and inadequate infrastructure. The Alaffia Maternal Health Project follows the World Health Organization’s recommendations for reducing maternal mortality rates both directly, through providing funds for pre- and post-delivery care, and indirectly, through the Alaffia Women’s Clinic Project, which provides training and information for women’s health issues including nutrition, prevention of genital mutilation practices, and more. Alaffia product sales have funded the birth of over 4,142 babies in rural Togolese communities through the Togo Health Clinic System.

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The future of African communities depends on the education and empowerment of young people. Since Alaffia founded their shea butter cooperative in 2003, they’ve provided school uniforms, books, and writing supplies to children in Togolese communities to offset the financial burden these items have on poor families. They also donate desks and install new roofs on schools to make learning a more enjoyable experience. Since 2011, Alaffia product sales have funded the construction of ten schools throughout Togo and provided school supplies to 23,700 recipients. They now partner with retail stores to collect school supplies – if you would like to help collect pens and pencils for this project, please contact Alaffia at 1-800-664-8005.

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In rural areas of Togo, students walk up to 10 miles a day to attend school. There are no buses, and families cannot afford private transportation. As a result, school becomes very time-consuming, and most students decide to quit school in order to fulfill their family obligations. In rural areas, less than 10% of high school-aged girls and only 16% of boys attend school (UNICEF). In 2004, Alaffia began collecting and sending used bicycles to Togolese students to encourage them to stay in and complete school through their Bicycles for Education Project. Now, with over 7,100 bicycles sent and distributed, they are seeing a real impact on exam scores and retention in rural schools. 95% of Bicycles For Education recipients graduate secondary school.
They collect used bicycles in and around their communities in Washington and Oregon, with the help of their retailers, volunteers, and Alaffia staff. All costs of this project – from collecting, repairing, and shipping bicycles, to customs duties, distribution costs, ongoing maintenance, and follow-up – are paid for through the sales of Alaffia products. This project brings communities in the US and Togo together. Bicycles that would otherwise be destined for the landfill are encouraging students in Togo to stay in school so they can lead their communities out of poverty. To find out how you can be involved, visit alaffia.com or email communications@alaffia.com

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Deforestation and climate change have had a devastating impact on West African farming communities. Alaffia product sales have funded the planting of 53,125 trees by Togolese farmers to help mitigate erosion and improve food security for their families. They also conduct trainings to discourage the cutting of shea trees for firewood and charcoal to preserve this important indigenous resource for future generations. Through their Alternative Fuels Project, they investigate sustainable fuel alternatives, such as bio-gas and bio-oils, to reduce the demand for wood and charcoal.

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n Togo, it is extremely difficult for visually impaired people to obtain eyeglasses. An eye exam costs as much as one month’s wage and a pair of eyeglasses can cost up to four months of wages. Through their Eyeglasses ProjectAlaffia collects used eyeglasses at retailer locations throughout the US and employs an optometrist in Togo to correctly fit and distribute the glasses. A pair of eyeglasses is life-changing for a child struggling in school, the elderly with failing vision, and adults who have never been able to see clearly. To date, Alaffia has collected and distributed over 14,200 pairs of glasses.

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As part of their Maternal Health Initiatives, Alaffia aims to educate women about the dangers of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), or excision. FGM includes procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons and is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. The procedure can result in severe bleeding, infections, life-threatening complications in childbirth, and increased risk of newborn deaths (World Health Organization).

Abidé Awesso is the Maternal Health & FGM Eradication Coordinator in the Bassar region of Togo and has been working with Alaffia since 2012. Hodalo Katakouna was one of Abidé’s first patients and one of the first women to be supported as part of our Maternal Health and FGM Eradication project. Click here to read Abidé’s account of Hodalo’s story.

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The Right to Food in the United States –  What can we do on the local level?

It’s time for the United States to support the human right to food.  Every person must have access to safe, nutritious, and adequate food obtained in dignified ways to be healthy and have an adequate standard of living. Our federal government should commit to respect, protect and fulfill the right to adequate food and nutrition, as almost every other country in the world has done. Recent assaults on federal food assistance by our government have stirred public outrage, as well as resistance from more moderate members of Congress.  But the problem goes deeper than threats to food access in the current administration – the solutions need to be made comprehensive and accessible.

United States opposition to the right to adequate food and nutrition (RtFN) has endured through Democratic and Republican administrations.  Nevertheless, post-World War II bipartisan programs in support of food and economic security were greatly improving hunger and poverty until they were reversed in the early 1980s. Combined federal and private food assistance cobbled together since that time has not been adequate to prevent steady or rising hunger and food insecurity in the U.S. on national and local levels.  In Vermont, the latest available data (2013-2015 average) tell us that 6.3% of households had low food security (reduced quality, variety, or desirability of diet) and 5.1% had very low food security (reduced food quantity or disrupted eating patterns because of not having enough money or resources). This problem is especially serious in households with children:  nearly 1 in 5 children in Vermont doesn’t have regular access to enough food for a healthy, active lifestyle.

We shouldn’t be surprised: private charitable food assistance, such as food banks and pantries, and government food assistance such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and WIC cannot end hunger and food insecurity.  These programs do not address the root causes of food insecurity such as racism, falling real wages, and rising inequality in income and assets. People at the front lines of hunger and food insecurity do not participate in the design and implementation of US programs.  Nor do these programs respond to chronic food insecurity by building robust, diversified, sustainable, and decentralized food economies. There is no popularly conceived, comprehensive plan in the U.S. with measurable benchmarks to assess the success or failures of the present approach. Therefore, our capacity to hold government actors accountable to progressively improving food and nutrition status is ultimately constrained.  All of these actions are part of putting the RtFN in action.  Countries endorsing the RtFN and taking steps to make it real (e.g., Brazil, France, all Scandinavian countries, Eastern European countries, Japan) have a lower prevalence of moderate and severe food insecurity than the US, even when their GDP is much lower than the US.  For a look at how U.S. food security is broken down geographically, please click on the graphic, below:

Although nobody expects action at the federal level anytime soon, support may be feasible at town, city and state levels. Democratic action is often most effective and possible when people know and encounter each other regularly, and can hold each other accountable. Middlebury and Vermont could support the RtFN, even without federal action, in many ways.  We could look for guidance to many other places around the world that have created programs in line with the RtFN, then develop a plan for eliminating hunger and food insecurity that could be a model for other cities and states.

To find out more about the state of food security in the U.S., please see the following resources.

USDA Economic Research Service

Hunger Free Vermont

Molly Anderson is MNFC’s newest member of the Board.  She teaches at Middlebury College about hunger, food security, food sovereignty, and ways to “fix” food systems.  She works to improve our food system with national and international organizations, as well as through MNFC.

 

 

The Checks Are In The Mail!

We’re excited to announce that this year’s Member Patronage Refund Checks are in the mail!  If you’re a member, and your patronage refund amounts to more than $2, you should be seeing yours in your mailbox in the next week.  If you’re new to patronage refunds, or just want to know more, read on!

Here’s a quick overview of how this benefit works. In 2015, our Co-op’s member-owners voted to switch from a discount at the register to a patronage refund system (also called a patronage dividend system). This simply means that in years when the Co-op has a profit and declares a member patronage, you will receive a share of the profits in direct proportion to how much you’ve purchased. So, the more you shop, the more you’re eligible to earn!  At the end of the fiscal year, if the Co-op is profitable, your Leadership Team, comprised of both Management and the Board of Directors, reviews any anticipated projects and financial needs for the Co-op. That information is then used to determine how much profit to retain, and how much to return to you.  The amount retained stays in the Co-op. It still belongs to all member-owners and becomes part of what we own together. It also represents another aspect of our investment in this community-owned organization.  The remaining profits are then returned (refunded) to you, a member-owner, in the form of a check. Your check stub includes the total amount of your purchases at the Co-op during the last fiscal year, April 2016-March 2017. Because our Co-op was profitable in the fiscal year, ending 3/31/17, the Leadership Team decided to return 35% of the profits to the member-owners and retain 65% to reinvest in the Co-op.   For more information about how our patronage refund system works or the by-laws, click here.

  • Here are some options and ideas for enjoying your patronage check:
    Cash or deposit your check within 90 days (deadline is October 13, 2017). Why not spend it locally
    to keep your dollars circulating in the community? You can even use it at your Co-op!
  • Donate it to support the local food shelves HOPE and CVOEO in MIddlebury to help us combat food
    insecurity in our community. Endorse the back of your check “Payable to MNFC” and return to a
    cashier at the Co-op and we’ll make the donation for you.
  • Please note that if you do not cash or deposit or return your check within 90 days, the check becomes void,
    and the Co-op will donate the amount to be split between the two food shelves, HOPE and CVOEO.

Thank you so much for helping to make your Co-op a successful part of our vibrant local community!

Spotlight on Orca Bay

We’re casting our Co-op Spotlight on Orca Bay this week to shed a little light on their efforts to source sustainable, ocean-friendly seafood for all to enjoy. Their seafood products are 20% off for member-owners from July 6th – 11th! Read on to learn more about this energetic and creative company providing exceptional seafood choices for more than 30 years:

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Orca Bay is pleased to be an example of how ethics, fairness, and friendship can be core values of a healthy and thriving business endeavor. They attribute their success and longevity to a winning blend of quality, value, and innovation. From their people to their products, to the clients that they serve, their goal will always be to exceed expectations and to keep the Orca Bay whale synonymous with true quality and customer satisfaction. They believe that from great people come great products. To that end, Orca Bay has invested three decades into searching out and nurturing business relationships with some of the most quality-minded seafood harvesters in the world. From those fishermen and harvesters to their headquarters in Seattle, they source and process the very best seafood products, offering both variety and value to the health conscious consumer. By combining convenient and informative packaging with wholesome and delicious seafood, Orca Bay consistently delivers excellence to that most important of daily social events – mealtime. Their products have garnered awards from the prestigious Alaska “Symphony of Seafood”,  a competition celebrating wild, all natural selections.

At Orca Bay, they view themselves as partners with their customers, suppliers, community and their environment. Together they collaborate to ensure that demand and standards for the finest seafood do not come at the expense of the individuals or oceans that provide them. They are committed to supporting organizations which promote their shared values in business, health, and social responsibility such as the National Fisheries Institute and Sea Share. Their seafood products are non-GMO verified, they are certified for responsible fisheries management by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI), and their seafood is certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). They’re also a participating and certified supplier in a cool program called Smart Catch, created by chefs for chefs to recognize restaurants working toward ensuring an abundant supply of seafood for generations to follow.

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Why is it so important to support sustainable seafood? 

From above, it may seem that there are plenty of fish in the sea, but dive beneath the surface and it’s a different story. Over-fishing, lack of effective management, and our own consumption habits are just a few factors contributing to a decline in wild fish populations. Evidence of these problems abounds.

In just the past decade, Atlantic populations of halibut and yellowtail flounder joined the list of species at all-time lows. The cod fishery, once a backbone of the North Atlantic economy, collapsed completely in the early 1990s and has shown little evidence of recovery two decades later. The breeding population of Pacific bluefin tuna is now at only four percent of its original size and decline will continue without significant, immediate management changes.

Other harmful effects of fishing—some of which are preventable with modifications to gear—also impact the ocean, including the accidental catch of unwanted species (bycatch) and habitat damage from fishing gear.

So, how did we get here? One reason is the advent of industrial-scale fishing, which began in the late 1800s and has been accompanied by significant declines in the size and abundance of fish. By the mid-1990s, these fishing practices made it impossible for natural fish stocks to keep up. Ninety percent of the world’s fisheries are now fully exploited, overexploited or have collapsed.

Because the ocean seems so vast and its resources limitless, these threats are often “out of sight, out of mind,” but over-fishing issues are not just for future generations to bear; they’re very real problems threatening our current seafood supply and the health of our ocean. The good news is that there is much we can do.

  • Support sustainable seafood with your food dollars – Ask for sustainable seafood at stores and restaurants. By asking this simple but important question, you can help shape the demand for, and ultimately supply of, fish that’s been caught or farmed in environmentally sustainable ways. Consumers play an important role in shaping ocean health, so start making a difference today!
  • Use sustainable seafood resource guides, like this one from the Safina Center, when shopping for seafood.
  • Consider these ocean-friendly substitutes when the seafood in your recipe isn’t a sustainable option.
  • Check for logos indicating sustainable seafood options like those from the MSC or ASMI.

Want great recipes, cooking tips, and other resources? Check out Orca Bay’s web page!

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