Letter to VT Senate Ag Committee re: food security

Dear Senator Hardy and Members of Senate Agriculture Committee,

Specific to the opportunity the Senate Agriculture Committee has to stimulate our agricultural economy while addressing food security, the partners (NOFA-VT, Shelburne Farms, VT Foodbank and Hunger Free VT) have identified the following four priorities for CARES funding that directly support Vermont farmers and food security, together.

Attached you will find more detailed memos that have been previously submitted to the legislature on the broader range of needs in order to adequately begin to address the growing levels of food insecurity Vermonters are experiencing.

We recommend investing in the following programs, to support Vermont farmers and access to nutritious food for Vermonters in need:

  • $4 million to support the Vermont Foodbank's work to distribute food to those in need. This would fund food purchases, operating costs, and sub-grants. As much food as possible would be purchased through their Vermonters Feeding Vermonters program, which purchases food from Vermont farmers at market rates to distribute through food bank locations.
  • $75,000 to support NOFA-VT’s Farm Share and Crop Cash programs, which provide subsidized CSA shares to limited income Vermonters, and “double your money” incentives for customers shopping with 3SquaresVT benefits at farmers markets.
  • $4-12 million to cover the extra costs incurred by Vermont schools for feeding children due to the COVID-19 emergency, including summer, with a large portion of that support for meal programs, additional labor costs,  and related necessary transportation costs. The cost varies greatly, dependent on waiver extensions ultimately granted by the USDA. They have extended some, but not all, the critical waivers needed. (Hunger Free Vermont could provide a more detailed update in testimony on the cost and some options AOE and school partners are considering).
  • $930,000 to stimulate Vermont school supervisory unions to purchase Vermont food from Vermont agriculture and food producers over summer 2020 and the 20-21 school year.

A multi-faceted, comprehensive approach that includes a combination of federal and state investment is needed. The attached memos provide a holistic approach for critical investments to support the food security of all Vermonters. This must also include a deepened commitment from the State to invest in outreach and assistance to Vermonters to connect with stable, well-funded programs like 3SquaresVT so that schools, the charitable food system, and volunteers do not need to carry the full weight of the rapidly growing food insecurity we are seeing in our state. 

Our recommendations above are one part of that holistic response and an opportunity to connect the state investment that is needed in food security with the investment needed to support VT farmers and producers. We look forward to the opportunity to discuss these recommendations with the Committee.

Best regards,

Besty Rosenbluth, VT-FEED
Faye Conte, Hunger Free Vermont
Maddie Kempner, NOFA-VT
Nicole Whalen, Vermont Foodbank