Program helps bring produce to Vermont Foodbank

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(Host) Every farm has crops that it either can’t harvest or can’t sell, and the food then goes to waste. But a Lamoille County woman found a way to save the fresh food and distribute it to local food shelves.

Now, as VPR’s Amy Noyes reports, the Vermont Foodbank plans to take the idea statewide.

(Noyes) Theresa Snow came up with the idea in 2004 while working at an organic farm in Craftsbury.

She calls it Salvation Farms. And she says the goal is simple.

(Snow) "Salvation Farms has a primary mission to salvage excess farm produce, making it available to Vermonters in need."

(Noyes) Salvation Farms “gleans” excess produce from nearby farms and gives it to food shelves and other organizations that feed the hungry.

(Snow) "Gleaning is an ancient agrarian tradition. It’s allowing, traditionally the poor, to have right to farmers’ fields once the harvest is over. And it’s been more and more abandoned as we’ve had increased industrial ag."

(Noyes) The initiative has produced results.

Over the past three years Salvation Farms has used volunteers to gather and distribute more than 88,000 pounds of food from farms throughout the Lamoille Valley. Local food shelves get it to people in need.

(warehouse sounds)

(Noyes) The Vermont Foodbank’s 19,000 square foot warehouse is filled to the ceiling with pallets of nonperishable foods, from breakfast cereals to cans of soup. These are the staples that line local food shelves.

CEO Doug O’Brien says Salvation Farms holds promise for the entire state and he’s taken on the operation as a program of the Vermont Foodbank.

(O’Brien) "We saw a real opportunity here to wed, pretty much, their operation with ours. And a way to get more healthy, locally produced food to low-income people who probably wouldn’t be able to afford it otherwise."

(Noyes) O’Brien says taking the Salvation Farms concept statewide is a natural evolution for the Foodbank.

(O’Brien) "This kind of new model is actually, I think in many ways, the future of the foodbank. As long as Vermont stays a strongly agricultural state, and a state where our agricultural community is committed to helping their needy neighbors, we see this program growing. And we’re going to shift, increasingly, from the more traditional food bank model to a model that looks more at sustainable local resources."

(Noyes) O’Brien says it’s a trend that the Foodbank needs to embrace. So, this summer, he’ll be looking for volunteers to help harvest crops that would otherwise be tilled under.

For VPR News, I’m Amy Noyes.

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