Food Insecurity

Why Equity is at the Heart of Food System Transformation

People shop at the food co-op for all sorts of reasons – for bulk teas and spices, or the freshest possible ingredients for a special dinner, or maybe to support local farmers and food businesses, or to find a wide assortment of organic food to avoid feeding your family pesticide residues with their meals. Many of us shopping at the co-op are aware that our US food system has some deep problems, and we want to be part of a solution. We read about farmworkers dying from heat exhaustion in California, after making a long and dangerous trek to reach a job in the United States. We read about food deserts and gross disparities in health outcomes for populations in areas without good access to healthy food. We read about the growing dangers of antibiotic resistance to serious diseases — a problem that the World Health Organization tells us is comparable to climate change in its impacts on human health and caused in large part by feeding antibiotics to livestock to make them grow faster. These are all side-effects of ‘business as usual’ in our food system and a result of buying food at the cheapest possible price from all over the world regardless of how it was grown and by whom.
Participating in a member-owned food business that operates on cooperative principles is an important alternative to ‘business as usual’.

The co-op’s structure allows member-owners to have a say in what we buy and how the profits are distributed. Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op has been a great community partner by sponsoring or contributing to food access programs and events to raise awareness of healthier eating. But are we really addressing inequity? And why is that important?

Inequity, in contrast to inequality, is systematic exclusion from opportunities that would allow equitable outcomes. The US food system is founded upon and continues to be supported by exploitation – of the natural environment and people with little political power.

Our country was stolen from Native Americans, leaving a shameful legacy of broken treaties and people living on reservations with the highest prevalence of diabetes in the country. Much of US wealth was built on the labor of cruelly enslaved peoples, Native American and African, who even now have not been able to access a fair share of that wealth. Wealth is rapidly trickling up — or more accurately, flooding up — to the wealthiest people, with only three people in the US now controlling more wealth than the bottom 50%, according to Forbes Magazine. Through our foreign policies and trade agreements, we continue to exploit people and resources in other countries so that US citizens can enjoy exotic foods and items we consider staples year-round, although we can’t produce them on US land (coffee, tea, and spices, to say nothing about our insatiable demand for petroleum). Through our ‘cheap food’ policy, designed to prevent urban populations from revolting, we continue to exploit farmers and indirectly farmworkers who make wages far below the poverty threshold.

A common reaction among relatively well-educated people in the US is to buy food certified to be organic, eco-labeled in some other way (e.g., Marine Stewardship Council seafood) Fair Trade (international or domestic) or humanely raised. But we can’t buy our way to equity; and as long as racial and financial inequity persists in the food system, we are feeding ourselves on stolen labor and resources.

So how can we work toward greater food system equity? This merits a larger community conversation, and conversations about climate justice and farming issues in Addison County are a good start. Equity will require enabling real participation of everyone in making and implementing decisions about our food, and seizing control away from wealth-mongers, Big Food and Big Ag—agribusinesses that are far more concerned about a steady flow of profits than a steady increase in public health and ecological integrity. It will mean each of us developing more awareness of the ways that our own well-being comes at the expense of other people’s quality of life. It will mean not only buying good food, in a place like the coop where our purchases benefit our community, but participating in political forums to get money out of politics at every level and to fight for policies that provide the privileges of health and political voice enjoyed by the well-to-do to the least advantaged in our society.

And to ‘put the last first’ over and over, until our society is no longer marked by huge disparities in wealth, health, and political power – Molly Anderson

Molly Anderson is a Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op Board Member


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.”



Rally for Change for John Graham Housing & Services February 9 – 15

It’s winter in Vermont.  While most of us are cozy in front of our wood stoves and heaters, hundreds of Vermonters have no place to call home. No place to cook a meal, get warm, take a shower, or do homework. No place where they feel safe and secure.  For thousands of homeless Vermonters, John Graham Housing and Services has been the answer to this enormous challenge.

During the week of February 9-15, you can help them answer that challenge by rounding up your total at the register (or donating even more, if you can!).  The Co-op will match whatever is raised by our shoppers and donate it to this amazing organization.  The Shelter will use the Rally for Change funds to deliver healthy food to homeless families and individuals living at their five buildings, and to provide first month’s rent and deposits directly to people who are moving into permanent housing. In other words, every cent raised through the Rally for Change will go directly food and housing for homeless people.

Since 1980, John Graham Housing and Services has been providing:

  • Food, Shelter and Housing
  • Services and Support to help transform lives
  • Prevention and Intervention in times of crisis

The organization began as a shelter for individuals, but about twelve years ago, it evolved into  an emergency shelter that could also accommodate families.  Today, in addition to providing emergency shelter for around 25 people at their main building in downtown Vergennes, John Graham also owns and operates other housing units in town, as well as in Bristol and Middlebury.  Each year, John Graham helps find housing and support services for around 200 individuals.  While many of these clients use the services of their emergency shelter, many more benefit from assistance with long term housing, which helps them establish a rental history and move on to more self-sufficient housing opportunities.  Many clients also benefit from clinical support services, to help with the mental and emotional health issues that so often go hand in hand with homelessness.  Please take a few minutes to watch this video about the shelter.

A note from John Graham Housing and Services:

As a state, we have made tremendous progress in ending homelessness. The number of homeless individuals dropped by 29% from January 2014 to January 2016. And yet still, well over a thousand Vermonters will live outside or in emergency shelter this winter.

With your help, we can provide food, shelter, and hope to transform the lives of our neighbors.

The following is a report about the state of homelesness in Vermont, from the John Graham Housing & Services web site:

Putting Homelessness into Perspective


There is not a single state in the country where a full-time minimum-wage worker can afford a market-rate one or two-bedroom rental.14 Vermont is no exception. Rising rents, stagnating wages, and an extreme lack of affordable housing mean that Vermont families have less and less access to safe and stable housing. At the same time, rates of homelessness are on the rise, and families are staying longer in shelters.

The 2015 statewide average for a market-rate two-bedroom apartment was $1,076. In Chittenden County it was $1,328.17 In order to afford these rents without being cost burdened (see sidebar), a full-time worker would need to make between $20.69 and $25.54 an hour. In other words, a household relying on minimum wage would need to work 111 hours per week- or nearly three full time jobs-to afford market- rate rent in Burlington.15

Renters in Chittenden County are among the most cost-burdened in New England.16 More than half (53 percent) of renter households in Chittenden County pay more than 30 percent of their income towards rent, and 28 percent spend more than half of their income on rent. Cost burdens are nearly as high in Vermont as a whole, with 48 percent of renter households in the state spending more than 30 percent, and 24 percent spending than half-or more-of their income on rent.17

The impossible choice between shelter, adequate food, childcare, heating, and healthcare is a significant stressor for thousands of cost-burdened Vermont families. There are no good places to cut corners when there is not enough money for basic necessities.

At John Graham, most able residents work full-time and are still unable to afford decent housing. In order to bridge the gap between low wages and high cost of living, we work to connect clients with the programs and subsidies they need for their families to thrive.

The Fair Market Rent for the average two-bedroom apartment in Addison County is $946. If we assume that rent is 30% of income, a family would need to earn $3,153 monthly or $37,840 each year to keep up with the bills.

Most of the parents we serve work at stores, gas stations, restaurants, farms or at entry level manufacturing jobs. They just can’t afford rising rent. To add to the problem, there are not enough affordable rental units available. The lower the income threshold, the greater the shortage of affordable and available units. Addison County has fewer than 30 units available for every 100 households with very low incomes!

In addition, many contributing factors of stress on individuals foments widespread drug abuse. Opiate addictions in VT increased by 770% between 2000 and 2014. Deaths from overdose have multiplied in recent years. And the number of alleged child abuse or neglect cases filed in courts across Vermont has also climbed. Some experts attribute this rise to the impact of opiate addiction and increased homelessness on child safety.



A contributing factor to Vermont’s high rents is the extremely low vacancy rate statewide. Approximately 29 percent of Vermont families are renters, but there is an extreme shortage of affordable rental units. While nationwide vacancy rates hover around 7 percent, Vermont faces a 1 percent vacancy rate.18

Subsidized units and units with more than three bedrooms for larger families are in particularly short supply, with zero percent vacancy and long wait lists in large renter areas like Chittenden County.19 The result is that low-income families are increasingly pushed into overcrowded and substandard housing.20



Families struggling with unaffordable housing costs often face impossible choices between essential expenses. In Vermont, harsh winters make heating costs a crucial budget item, but 20 percent of state residents spend an unaffordable amount of their income on fuel. Vermont is consistently the least affordable state in the country when energy costs are measured as a percent of household budgets.22

A household that spends more than 10% of its income on fuel is considered to be “Fuel Poor.” According to a recent report by the Vermont Low Income Trust for Electricity, 125,000, or 1 in 5, Vermonters were fuel poor in 2012, up 76 percent since the year 2000. The poorest 30 percent of households spent an average of one sixth of their income on fuel, and nearly 60 percent were considered fuel poor. 23 In the 13,000 households surviving on less than half of the federal poverty level, 56 percent of income went to energy costs.24

While fuel poverty is much more common and extreme among low-income households, a substantial number of Vermonters at all income levels are classified as Fuel Poor. Expensive fuel, energy-inefficient homes and appliances, and houses that are too big for current occupants (as is the case with many elderly people experiencing fuel poverty) can all contribute to unaffordable fuel costs.

Fuel poverty can have serious negative impacts on the health and wellbeing of children, elderly people, and those with long-term illnesses. These vulnerable populations often spend more time at home and need to heat their homes throughout the day. Cold and damp houses lead to increased occurrences of respiratory and circulatory illness, including bronchitis, asthma, and strokes. Under-heated houses are also associated with increased severity of seasonal colds and flu and arthritic symptoms, and children living in these homes are twice as likely to have asthma, bronchitis, and to miss school because of illness.25 These conditions, paired with the reality that many poor families reduce food intake to pay for fuel, mean that infants in low- income households without access to fuel subsidies are more likely to be low weight and require emergency medical care.26

In 2014, residents statewide spent a total of $206 million more on energy costs than is considered affordable.27 At least 30,000 households living below the poverty level were Fuel Poor in 2014, paying between 30 percent and 56 percent of their income to cover energy costs,28 but only 6,628 households received essential state assistance for their energy bills.29 Energy Assistance funding levels for 2014 met just 8 percent of the need for households experiencing this affordability gap.30



On January 27, 2015, a coalition of statewide groups counted 1,523 homeless Vermonters. Nearly one in five households counted included children.31 A one-night count in December 2014 showed that more than a quarter of those staying in state-funded shelters were children.32 More than half of those counted were families with children or unaccompanied youth.

Vermont has one of the highest rates of homelessness in New England, second only to Massachusetts. With over 23 people experiencing homelessness per 10,000 residents, Vermont’s rate of homelessness is 20 percent higher than the national average. Furthermore, although there was a 3.7 percent decrease in the number of people who experienced homelessness nationally from 2012 to 2013, Vermont saw a 25.34 percent increase in overall reported homelessness and a 48.52 percent increase in family homelessness.33

During the 2013-2014 school year, 1,145 homeless youth were enrolled in Vermont schools. While the majority of these students were “doubled up,” staying with friends and couch surfing, more than 1 in 7 was living in a shelter, campground, car, or was otherwise un-housed.34 The number of homeless students in the state is up 46 percent from 2010 after a peak of 1,202 students in 2012 following displacement due to Tropical Storm Irene. This general upward trend in the number of homeless youth reported for the past several years is particularly notable because declining enrollment statewide means that the portion of homeless students continues to rise.35



14. National Low Income Housing Coalition (2015), Out of Reach 2015:
15. According to Housing and Urban Development (HUD) – determined 2014 Fair Market Rent (FMR) rates, based on the 40th percentile of prices of unites rented across a region in the past15 months.
16. Mauricio K (2013), Mapping New England: Rent Cost Burden over 30 percent by county, in “Communities & Banking,” vol 24, no 1, winter 2013.  Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
17. U.S. Census Bureau, 2009-2013 5-Year American Community Survey, Table B25070: Gross Rent as a Percentage of Household Income in the Past 12 Months, accessed via American FactfFinder.
18. Callis R and Kresin M. (2015), Residential Vacancies And Homeownership In The Fourth Quarter 2014, U.S. Department of Commerce, Social, Economic, and Housing Statistics Division.
19. Bowen, Patrick M (2015), Vermont Statewide Housing Needs Assessment. Prepared for Vermont Department of Housing & Community Development by Bowen National Research, pg 73.
20. Bowen, Patrick M (2015), Vermont Statewide Housing Needs Assessment. Prepared for Vermont Department of Housing & Community Development by Bowen National Research, pg 74.
21. Teller-Elsberg, Sovacool, Smith, and Laine (2014), ENERGY COSTS AND BURDENS IN VERMONT: BURDENSOME FOR WHOM?, prepared by the Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law School for the Vermont Low Income Trust for Electricity, pg 5.
22. Fisher Sheehan Colton (2012), Home Energy Affordability Gap Ranking:  Dollar Gap per Household by State.
23. Teller-Elsberg, Sovacool, Smith, and Laine (2014), ENERGY COSTS AND BURDENS IN VERMONT: BURDENSOME FOR WHOM?, prepared by the Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law School for the Vermont Low Income Trust for Electricity, pg 4
24. Fisher, Sheehan& Colton (2015), The Home Energy Affordability Gap 2014 {2nd Series): Vermont, pg 1. available at
25. MarmotReviewTeam(2011),  TheHealthImpactsof Cold Homes and Fuel Poverty.  Friends of the Earth.
26. Teller-Elsberg, Sovacool, Smith, and Laine (2014), ENERGY COSTS AND BURDENS IN VERMONT: BURDENSOME FOR WHOM?, prepared by the Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law School for the Vermont Low Income Trust for Electricity.
27. Fisher, Sheehan& Colton(2015), The Home Energy Affordability Gap 2014 {2nd Series): Vermont, pg 2. available at
28) ibid.
29) Fisher, Sheehan& Colton(2015), The Home Energy Affordability Gap 2014 {2nd Series): Vermont, pg 1. available at

Taking a Bite Out of Food Waste

Act 148, the Universal Recycling Law, marks the most significant change to Vermont’s solid waste system in recent history. This law includes a focus on reducing food waste, with the goal of all Vermont businesses, organizations, and citizens eliminating food from the waste stream by 2020. The program is being phased in gradually and is already experiencing impressive results, diverting 800 tons of food from Vermont’s landfills last year, representing a 40% increase in food rescue over the previous year! The impressive success of Vermont’s new law has garnered attention from the EPA and interest from neighboring states looking to enact similar legislation.

Why is the law needed?

Voluntary waste diversion rates in Vermont have stagnated over the past ten years and a significant portion of the current waste stream is comprised of items that could otherwise be recycled, diverted, and put to better use. Landfill space in Vermont is limited and one of the two major landfills in our state is nearing its capacity. If all recoverable materials were recycled, composted, or rescued, Vermont could cut its landfill waste by more than half!

Recyclable materials, food scraps, and leaf & yard debris are all valuable resources that should not be thrown away. When they are landfilled, these materials contribute significantly to climate change by producing greenhouse gas emissions. If food loss and waste were its own country, it would be the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases—surpassed only by China and the United States! Food loss and waste generates more than four times the annual greenhouse gas emissions of aviation and is comparable to emissions from road transport. Aside from greenhouse gas emissions from the decomposing food waste, itself, one must consider the wastes of water and resources that it took to produce that food. The later a food product is lost along the chain, the greater the environmental consequences due to the environmental costs incurred during processing, transport, storage and cooking.

This law is also needed to help combat food insecurity. According to a 2012-2014 consensus, 13% of all Vermont households are food insecure. This figure includes more than 20,000 Vermont children. Of the estimated 133 billion pounds of food that goes to waste every year, much of it is perfectly edible and nutritious. When one considers that over 40% of all food produced eventually finds its way to the landfill, it becomes clear that we don’t necessarily have a food availability problem, we have a food equity problem. One way to mitigate food insecurity at the community level is through food rescue, which redirects surplus food from the waste stream to people in need of food.

What exactly does the Universal Recycling Law do?

Act 148 aims to improve the capture and diversion rates for food scraps, recyclables, and leaf & yard debris. Here is the summary of how the law will work:

  • Imposes a ban on disposal of certain solid waste from landfills including recyclables by July of 2015, leaf and yard debris by July of 2016, and food scraps by 2020. The diversion of food scraps will take place in phases, beginning with the largest food scrap generators (those producing more than 104 tons/year) in 2014 and working toward implementation at the household level by 2020. Click here for specifics on the timeline.
  • Requires parallel collection at facilities and at curbside. This means that facility owners that offer trash collection must also offer collection of recyclables, leaf & year debris, and food scraps. Haulers must offer services for collecting and managing these items. The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources will oversee facility and hauler residential rate structures to ensure that rates are transparent to customers.
  • Provides incentives to reduce waste by requiring municipalities to implement variable rate pricing (aka Pay As You Throw) for materials collected from residential customers based on volume or weight. Haulers are also required to utilize variable rate pricing structures in accordance with the specific ordinances and rules implemented by municipal entities (solid waste districts, towns, town groups, and alliances).
  • Provides more recycling options by requiring access to recycling containers anywhere that trash cans are located (excluding bathrooms) in all public buildings and publically-owned land.
  • Includes a food recovery hierarchy. This represents most interesting and exciting aspect of this new law. It helps us recognize that certain methods of food recovery are more impactful than others and encourages us to think about capturing and redistributing those nutrients in a way that best utilizes their value. Here’s what it looks like:

Of course, one could simply choose to place their food scraps in a bin for collection with their recyclables and pay for the service of having it collected. Or, one could choose to drop by the district transfer station, pick up a compost bin, and begin composting food scraps at home. But, the food recovery hierarchy encourages us to think up the pyramid by reducing food waste at its source or rescuing and redistributing food to the people and animals that need it.


Following the guidelines of the Universal Recycling Law and examining the Food Rescue Pyramid affords new opportunities to conserve resources, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save money, and combat community food insecurity by redirecting unwanted food to those who need it most.

We can set new goals to reduce waste at the source by doing the following:

  • Shop with a meal plan for the week that allows us to avoid over-purchasing and better utilize leftovers. Shop in your refrigerator first! Assess what you have on hand and build meals around those items that need to be used.
  • Designate a prominent, visible place in your refrigerator for items that need to be consumed first.
  • Choose to embrace inglorious fruits and veggies that have cosmetic flaws, but are otherwise completely delicious and nutritious.
  • Store leftovers in clear containers, thus avoiding the out of sight, out of mind problem that leads to moldy, unidentifiable leftovers at the back of the fridge.
  • Understand that “sell-by” or “use-by” dates often have little correlation to food safety. Even if the date expires during home storage, a product should be safe, wholesome, and delicious if handled properly. Let your senses be your guide. Foods can develop an off odor, flavor or appearance due to spoilage bacteria. If a food has developed such characteristics compost it. Otherwise, enjoy it!
  • Take empty containers to gatherings to capture leftovers. Prepared food cannot be donated to food shelves, so the excess is often wastefully discarded. Bring a container to your next gathering and encourage others to do the same!
  • Make “tops & tails broth” by collecting all the tops, tails, skins, and peels of the veggies you prep throughout the week. Toss them in a pot of water on a weekend day, along with any leftover meat bones and/or cheese rinds from the week. Simmer for an hour or two, then strain and compost the skins, peels, rinds, and bones. You’ll be left with a fantastic broth which can be turned into a fabulous meal or frozen for use another day.
  • Have produce that’s past its prime? It may still be fine for cooking. Think soups, casseroles, stir-fries, sauces, baked goods, pancakes or smoothies.
    Stale bread can be used to make croutons or processed into bread crumbs for a recipe. Stale cookies can be crushed and made into a delicious pie crust.
  • When produce, soups, bread, and similar items are reaching their prime, consider freezing them.

When you can’t eliminate food waste at the source, consider donating food to one of your two local food shelves, HOPE & CVOEO, or to a similar charitable organization. It’s a good idea to contact them first to be sure the items you wish to donate are items they are able to receive and distribute. Worried about liability? A Good Samaritan Law exists to help protect those who are contributing free food in good faith to charitable organizations.

If your excess food can’t go to the food shelf, consider the farmers in your area. Do you know anyone with chickens, pigs, or livestock? They might be thrilled to receive your glut of garden zucchini and your stale loaves of bread! Here at the Co-op, we donate all post-consumer food scraps to area farmers for use as animal feed and there is no shortage of demand for those bags of healthy scraps!

At the end of the day, it’s important to consider that approximately 40-50%  of food waste and 51-63% of seafood waste in the US occurs at the consumer (household) level. We can do so much better! Whether we’re eliminating food waste through better planning and use of available food, donating food, or learning to compost food, we all have better options that don’t involve throwing food into the garbage. As your household prepares for the rollout of Act 148 at the household level, here are a handful of great resources:

The Beginners Guide to Food Waste

The EPA Guide to Reducing Food Waste at Home

ReFED Food Waste Solutions

Vermont Food Rescue Toolkit created by Middlebury College Students Rebecca Berry, Jake Faber, Amanda Geller, and Will Jacobs

Addison County Solid Waste Management District

Also, be sure to look for this logo to identify receptacles for disposing of food waste when you’re out and about:


A Big Thank You from Addison County Food Shelves!

Thank you, generous shoppers!  With your help, through the Rally for Change, we were able to donate $3,785 to our local Food Shelves, CVOEO and HOPE.   The food shelves will use these funds to buy more of the shelf stable staples that their clients rely on, but they will also be used to buy items they can not often stock, such as fresh produce, dairy, and baking items for the holidays.  Because of your kindness, hundreds of Vermonters will not have to go without food this holiday season.  Half of these funds were raised by shoppers who rounded up their totals at the register 11/10-11/16.  The Co-op matched these funds and mailed checks out to the food shelves, last week.  What a difference a little spare change can make.

Want to learn more about our local Food Shelves?  Check them out at:




Round Up at the Registers for the Food Shelves 11/10-11/16!

Our Annual Rally for Change for local food shelves, CVOEO and HOPE starts on November 10th!  Just round up your total (or feel free to give more!) at the registers between 11/10 and 11/16 and the Co-op will match your donation!  What an easy way to do good this holiday season!

Hunger is not just an issue on the other side of the world.  Food insecurity is right at home in Vermont, and no one works on the front lines to combat this in Addison County like our two local food shelves – CVOEO and HOPE.    These two organizations spend a lot of their resources trying to get food to hungry Vermonters, but that’s not the whole story.  Want to know more?  Read on, to here about them, in their own words:


Linda Tirado knows poverty first hand. She has lived in it for the majority of her adult life. She also knows what it is to live in the middle class. In her book, Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap  America, she gives a definition of poverty that puts our world in perspective. “Poverty is when a quarter is a miracle. Poor is when a dollar is a miracle.  Broke is when five bucks is a miracle. Wor-
king class is being broke, but doing so in a place that might not be run down. Middle class is being able to own some toys and live in a nice place – and by ”nice” I don’t mean fancy.”

In Addison County: 1 in 5 children and youth know hunger; over 3,500 residents participate in the 3Squares VT program; there are 26 summer meal sites; and 10 senior meal sites server older citizens several times a week, all summer long.  Last summer, between May 1st and August 30th, CVOEO’s Food Shelf in Middlebury served 1,299 individuals. 342 of this number were under the age of 18, and 209 were seniors. Individuals and families come from towns throughout Addison County.

Donna Rose is the Food Shelf Coordinator.  We are located at 54 Creek Road in Middlebury. CVOEO is a nonprofit corporation, formed in 1965 to carry out the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 in Addison, Chittenden, Franklin and Grand Isle counties. CVOEO is one of five Community Action Agencies in Vermont. Its mission is to address fundamental issues of economic, social and racial justice.  It works with people to achieve economic independence, bridge gaps and build futures.  For more information, go to


HOPE is a private, locally governed organization that has been alleviating the distress of poverty in Addison County for over 50 years by providing a broad range of individualized services &  opportunities. HOPE’s staff members don’t say “this is what we can do”, rather they ask “what do you need?” HOPE fills in the gaps left by government programs, including help with heating & housing, medicines, job-related needs & more. They provide assistance to homeless persons, including those with significant housing barriers such as severe mental illness & substance abuse disorders.

HOPE offers healthy holiday meal baskets, and in the the HOPE Holiday Shop, low-income parents can select, free of charge, new clothing, toys and books for their children.

HOPE runs the largest food shelf in Addison County, serving an average of 600 people each month. Last year, they provided food to 6,248 people, including 481 senior citizens and 1,659 children. In 2015, they provided food for over 61,000 meals, distributed 10,797 pounds of local farm produce, & provided nearly 400 holiday meal boxes. This year they are on track to exceed their 2015 numbers.

HOPE’s Local Food Access Coordinator, Lily Bradburn, has been working with local farmers, picking up donated produce, leading crews to glean food in the fields, & purchasing crops for winter storage. Volunteers are needed to glean,  process and cook food. For more information or to volunteer, call 802-388-3608. HOPE is located at 282 Boardman St., behind Homeward Bound.  For more information, please go to

Thank you Empty Bowl Dinner Participants! We raised $2,500 for Local Food Shelves!

We just wanted to extend a big THANK YOU to all of the folks who made our 25th Empty Bowl Dinner such a success.  With your help, we raised $2,500 for local food shelves, CVOEO and HOPE!

Before the dinner, we had the pleasure of listening to presentations from Donna Rose of CVOEO and Lily Bradburn of HOPE, updating us on the state of food insecurity in Vermont.  They were pleased to inform us that this is the first year in a really long time that food insecurity in Vermont has actually decreased a bit.  We owe so much of that success to the hard work of organizations like these, and to the generous donors, like you, who help to keep them afloat.

We’d also like to extend an extra special thank you to our Sponsors:

Middlebury United Methodist Church

Red Hen Baking Company

Otter Creek Bakery

Champlain Orchard

Golden Russet Farm

Elmer Farm

Middlebury Bagel and Deli

Four Pillars Farm

Middlebury Studio School

North Branch School

Fred Barnes

And of course, a HUGE Thank you to our Volunteers!  Without your hard work moving furniture and decorating, cooking soups and dessert, cleaning and serving, this event would not be possible!

Here are a few great shots of the night!

Fred at the piano!
Fred at the piano!
Beautiful Bowls from Local Potters!
Beautiful Bowls from Local Potters!
Succulent Salad!
Succulent Salad!
Inspiring Artwork From North Branch School!
Inspiring Artwork From North Branch School!
Awesome Volunteers!
Awesome Volunteers!
Soups Ready to Serve!
Soups Ready to Serve!


Vermont’s Local Food System: A Report Card – Part 2

At a recent meeting of the Addison County Hunger Council, three representatives offered interesting perspectives regarding Vermont’s local food systems, and shared the successes and challenges associated with serving each particular group they represented. The Council explored issues throughout the local food system, from the farm workers who produce the food, to the distribution system for getting food to those who need it most. Council members discussed available resources, what supports are necessary, and what opportunities are present.

The representatives sharing presentations were Dr. Teresa Mares of UVM, Lily Bradburn of HOPE, and Jonathan Corcoran of ACORN. Dr. Mares shared insights about how our local food system serves the growing migrant farm worker population in Vermont. Lily Bradburn spoke about how these systems serve members of our community who are food insecure, and Jonathan Corcoran discussed local food system goals and challenges for our state as a whole.  Here at the Co-op, we spend a lot of time thinking about local food and the systems that support it, though it was very interesting and unique to examine it though the lens of these diverse groups of people. Through a three-part review of these presentations, we hope to share what we learned with all of you. In Part 1, we shared about Vermont’s local food system through the eyes of the migrant farm workers, and now it’s time to learn about how our local food system serves the families in Vermont who are food insecure.

Food Insecurity in Vermont:

Food security is generally defined as the lack of access to enough food to fully meet basic needs at all times due to lack of financial resources.

  • One in five Vermont children experiences hunger or food hardship.
  • More than 20,000 children under 18 live in food insecure households in VT.
  • Nearly 80,000 Vermonters of all ages live in food insecure households.

Food Insecurity with Hunger:

Households that are classified as food insecure with hunger are those in which adults have decreased the quality and quantity of food they consume because of lack of money to the point where they are quite likely to be hungry on a frequent basis, or in which children’s intake has been reduced due to lack of family financial resources, to the point that children are likely to be hungry on a regular basis and adults’ food intake is severely reduced.

  • 6% of all Vermont households are food insecure with hunger

There are state and federal programs in place to address this serious issue, though all too often, the food available to these members of our community is of the highly processed variety. A number of years ago, representatives from HOPE, Middlebury College, ACORN, the local business community, along with several local farmers, including Spencer Blackwell from Elmer Farm and Will Stevens of Golden Russet Farm, got together to discuss the possibility of increasing the amount of locally grown food offered at HOPE’s food shelf. This group recognized that Addison County farmers grow vast amounts of beautiful, healthy organic fruits and vegetables, which are often unavailable or too pricey to those who need it most. They also recognized that these farms often had excess produce available that would not be destined for retail markets, which could instead be diverted to the food shelf.

The Co-op contributed $8,000 to HOPE for the purpose of supporting this work, which allowed HOPE to hire a part time Local Food Access Coordinator. This new hire, Gretchen Cotell,  would build on the work that had already been done on a volunteer basis by the Addison County Gleaning Program. Gretchen successfully wrote a grant for the Hannaford Career Center to obtain a flash freezer unit from the USDA, which allows surplus produce gleaned from local farms to be frozen and stored for food shelf clients to use well beyond the typical growing season.

Last October, Gretchen passed the reins to a new Local Food Access Coordinator – our deli’s own Lily Bradburn! Lily is doing a fantastic job of elevating this program to new heights. By the end of 2015, more than 10,797 pounds of surplus produce had been donated by local farms! This takes monumental and tireless effort on the part of the farmers and a heck of a lot of coordinating and processing effort from Lily.  She has teamed up with multiple volunteer groups to process several hundred pounds of local carrots, and has cooked up over 240 quarts of soup using gleaned and donated local produce.  Lynn Coale and Woody Danforth at the Hannaford Career Center have also been key to this effort, thanks to the use of their culinary arts facility where much of this processing takes place.

“It has been immensely gratifying to see families that formerly left the food shelf with mostly non-perishable, processed food now able to select colorful armloads of red, orange and green veggies” Jeanne Montross, Executive Director of HOPE, said. “We are confident that this trend will continue.”

If Lily’s work thus far in 2016 is any indication, the Local Food Access Program will most certainly allow the trend to continue. Lily is working with farmers to negotiate contracts for crops that do not typically end up being surplus on the farm, so that these foods can be frozen, used in holiday food boxes, or made into value-added products like soups and stews. Last month, over 100 gallons of soup were made through a collaborative project called Just Soup,  where Lily works with fellow Hunger Council Members, Ashley Laux and Elle Bacon, to arrange student volunteers from Middlebury College to collect gleaned and donated products and create soups in the Hannaford Career Center kitchen. The soup is very popular among HOPE’s patrons – by month’s end only 13 gallons of it remained!  Lily is also hard at work setting up events for food shelf patrons – taste tests, cooking demonstrations, recipe swaps – all events geared toward encouraging the incorporation of more healthy, local foods into daily diets. Additionally, Lily is assisting HOPE clients in enrolling in the Co-op’s Food For All program, and arranging tours at the Co-op,  with a focus on familiarizing patrons with the bulk department and the significant savings that can be realized when items are purchased in that manner.

We’re incredibly grateful for Lily’s efforts, and for everyone at HOPE, the many volunteers, the Hannaford Career Center, and, of course, the local farmers that make this all possible. Thanks to their tireless work, HOPE’s Local Food Access program is thriving, and access to healthy, local foods for the food insecure members of our community is on the rise.

Here’s a list of the local farms contributing to this program:

  • Bella Farm
  • Elmer Farm
  • Four Pillars Farm
  • Gildrien Farm
  • Golden Russet Farm
  • Happy Valley Orchard
  • Lakeway Farm
  • Lalumiere Farm
  • Last Resort Farm
  • Lester Farm
  • Marble Rose Farm
  • Middlebury College Organic Garden
  • Mt. Abraham-Lincoln Farm
  • Nash Farm
  • New Leaf Organics
  • Singing Cedars Farm
  • Windfall Orchards

Vermont’s Local Food System: A Report Card – Part 1


At a recent meeting of the Addison County Hunger Council, three representatives offered interesting perspectives regarding Vermont’s local food system, and shared the successes and challenges associated with serving each particular group they represented. The Council explored issues throughout the local food system, from the farm workers who produce the food, to the distribution system for getting food to those who need it most. Council members discussed available resources, what supports are necessary, and what opportunities are present.

The representatives sharing presentations were Dr. Teresa Mares of UVM, Lily Bradburn of HOPE, and Jonathan Corcoran of ACORN. Dr. Mares shared insights about how our local food system serves the growing migrant farm worker population in Vermont. Lily Bradburn spoke about how these systems serve members of our community who are food insecure, and Jonathan Corcoran discussed local food system goals and challenges for our state as a whole.  Here at the Co-op, we spend a lot of time thinking about local food and the systems that support it, though it was very interesting and unique to think of it though the lens of these diverse groups of people. If the function of a food system is to feed the community it supports, then we must assess its efficacy from the diverse viewpoints of all members of that community. Through a three-part review of these presentations, we hope to share what we learned with all of you. First up is the work of Dr. Teresa Mares.

Migrant Farm Workers & Their Families:

Dr. Teresa Mares and her assistant Jessie Mazar (University of Vermont) led the discussion about food security among our growing migrant farm worker population in Vermont. Teresa is a professor of Anthropology at UVM, and Jessie is a graduate student in Food Systems. They presented an overview of a research project they’ve been working on for the past 5 years.  The project, which will be continuing for another few years, just finished its first phase, in which she and Jessie collected data on food insecurity and access to food through surveys with migrant farm workers.

Vermont is considered a “non-traditional destination” for migrant workers, but still has at least 1000 – 1200 migrant workers in the state. 90% of migrant workers are undocumented, so the exact number is unknown. Most are arriving from Mexico, though some come from countries in Central America.  Most migrant workers are concentrated in Addison County and Franklin County, and many work on dairy farms. Vermont is the most dairy-dependent state in the country, and it’s estimated that between one-half and two-thirds of the state’s dairy products are prepared by migrant workers. Dairy work is considered very desirable, as it is consistent, year-round, and usually offers some form of housing. However, because it is year-round, there is no legal pathway to citizenship for workers.

Teresa and Jessie’s early conclusions show that a worker’s proximity to the US / Canada border has a strong effect on that person’s food security and access to resources. Teresa highlighted the physical location of two invisible lines: one was 25 miles from the US/Canada border and defines the “primary operating zone” for Border Patrol and Immigration Services (IS); the second was 100 miles from the border, in which land is still under the general jurisdiction of Border Patrol and IS, but sees much less activity. Addison County falls within this 100 mile border.

Overall, only 18% of migrant workers were found to be food insecure, which is close to the Vermont average, and much better than other states’ migrant populations. Nationally, migrant farm workers experience food insecurity at a rate that is roughly 3-4 times the national average (14%), so it’s reassuring to find that these families fare slightly better here in Vermont. The average in Franklin County was 18.2%, but in Addison County, migrant food insecurity was only 15.7%. Teresa linked this to the two different areas’ proximity to the US / Canada border. In Addison County, which is outside of the primary operating zone for IS and Border Patrol, migrant workers are much more likely to use driver permission cards, and much more likely to be traveling away from their farms in order to access food and other resources. However, in Franklin County, migrant workers were much more afraid to leave the farm, which has led to a lot of dependence on their employers or third parties to get food. This practice has been very exploitative in some places.

Jessie described the Huertas project being led by UVM Extension, which has helped demonstrate the incredible resiliency and creativity of accessing food by migrant workers. UVM Extension workers have helped provide seedlings of culturally appropriate plants and started gardens for migrant workers on farms. The program started in Addison County last year, and found that there were already strong networks of migrant workers in the region. Jessie described that many migrant workers already have farming backgrounds, and use the gardens to supplement their own food
over the summer months (as opposed to trying to scale up and create a market for their crops). The gardens also serve an important social and cultural role for the workers.

One interesting highlight was when Jessie mentioned the role of local co-ops in offering culturally meaningful foods for these families. She found during her interviews that migrant farm workers are often able to find culturally meaningful foods like masa, dried chiles, and corn husks for tamales at co-ops. She touched on the importance of providing access to these foods, as they can have an important influence on social and familial relationships. These foods allow migrant families to retain their cultural identity and maintain strong family and social bonds.

The Council discussed some of the political and logistical complications facing migrant workers and their families. Dr. Mares described the challenging hours facing dairy workers, who often work 70-80 hours/week from 4-11am and 4-11pm, which obviously affects their health and ability to cook. Middlebury Foods shared that they have been trying to connect their services to these families, and are in the early stages of trying to provide food pick-up sites in areas that are easily accessible for migrant farm workers.  Dr. Mares and council member, Martha Kenfield, discussed that migrant families usually access school meals. Martha shared that if a parent identifies themselves as a migrant, it allows the family access to more resources at the school, but understood that revealing their status could be difficult. Cheryl Mitchell of NOFA- VT, who was part of a group that helped start the Latino Farmworker Coalition, praised the presentation and research. She is encouraged by the amount of energy emerging around supporting migrant workers, especially the Migrant Justice group and their Milk with Dignity program.

Dr. Mares’s work was enlightening and inspiring. It certainly identified areas for improvement with regard to our food system and the way it serves these members of our community, but also shed light on some very positive programs and components of our food system that are making food accessible for migrant farm workers and their families. As the population of migrant farm workers continues to grow in our county, what can we do to make our Co-op a more welcoming and accessible place for these community members?