Picture this – blue skies, a gentle breeze, the sound of birds chirping and squirrels scurrying up trees, friends and neighbors laughing and catching up, parents and children picking fresh flowers or tomatoes from the garden, and most importantly – an abundance of food everywhere you look. This is what you’ll experience every Monday afternoon at the Intervale Center!

Every Monday afternoon July through November 1st the Intervale Center hosts the Fair Share Program, offering free, fresh produce for income-eligible households. The Fair Share CSA (community-supported agriculture) is made up of a weekly basket of gleaned vegetables from local farms and also includes access to the pick-your-own People’s Garden. 

Gleaning is the act of harvesting surplus produce from farmers’ fields and then redistributing the harvest to community members. The Fair Share Program works with all types of vegetables and celebrates ‘imperfect’ produce. The vegetables that are gleaned may not look exactly like the produce at the grocery store but are still delicious and nutritious! High quality standards are maintained and the program works with excellent farmers, who by and large follow organic practices. Last year, the Fair Share Program gleaned 57,000 lbs of produce, served over 200 families, and partnered with 15 local service organizations to provide bulk vegetable shares to their communities and clientele!

This year, the Fair Share Program has partnered with a handful of other local organizations to highlight various food access resources. Each week, you’ll not only find beautiful baskets of gleaned produce but will also have access to Vermont Everyone Eats fresh meals, staple pantry items, frozen meats and various dairy products provided by Feeding Chittenden, and a new recipe each week (with samples!) featuring invasive species provided by a group of Burlington Wildways perennial interns.

Before you enter the barn to collect your veggies, you’ll see the Burlington Wildways table set up and you’ll certainly smell whatever delicious goodie they cooked up for you to try!

Burlington Wildways is a nonprofit collaboration between different conservation organizations that aim to protect and connect natural areas in Burlington. The coalition is made up of Burlington Parks, Recreation and Waterfront, the Winooski Valley Park District, Rock Point, the Burlington Conservation Board, City Council, and the Intervale Center. This year, Burlington Wildways first ever perennial interns Marjorie, Nora, and Libby, have set out to find creative and holistic ways to manage invasive species. Each week, they bring a new and inventive recipe that not only utilizes, but often features, a non-native invasive species. There are so many that are edible, medicinal, nutritious and super tasty! Last week, they had a delicious nettle pizza! Who knows what they’ll cook up next? 

After you’ve gathered your gleaned produce, you’ll see Bella, the Everyone Eats Delivery Driver & Distribution Coordinator, with a huge smile ready to offer you some freshly made meals. Meals are prepared by a handful of local restaurants including Red Panda, Jamaican Supreme, Agave, Sweet Alchemy, Conscious Eatz, and Overlook Cafe! You’ll feel like you’ve left the Intervale and stepped straight into one of your favorite restaurants.

Vermont Everyone Eats (VEE) is an innovative program that provides nourishing and delicious meals to Vermonters in need of food assistance as well as a stabilizing source of income for Vermont restaurants, farmers, and food producers. The program was initially inspired by grassroots initiatives from communities across Vermont that collaboratively advocated for statewide funding to help mitigate the high levels of food insecurity and food industry instability that were exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis. 

VEE is operated through a network of community hubs throughout Vermont. Together with ShiftMeals and Healthy Roots, the Intervale Center serves Chittenden, Franklin and Grand Isle Counties. The program is essentially for  “everyone” who has faced increased food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic. While things are always changing and evolving, in its latest phase, the program is designed to help families, restaurants, and farmers continue to cope with the lingering impacts of COVID-19. Everyone Eats was extended to continue providing meals to everyone experiencing food insecurity and income for struggling restaurants and farmers due to the still-turbulent economic conditions. The program is anticipated to ramp down until September 30, 2021, when it is then expected to end. Southeastern Vermont Community Action (SEVCA) currently coordinates the program through a contract with the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD). 

To complement the fresh produce and meals already being offered, Feeding Chittenden, a local food shelf, offers staple pantry items as well as frozen meats and a variety of dairy products. Feeding Chittenden, founded in 1974, works to fight hunger and food insecurity within Chittenden County. Not only does the organization run a food shelf, which is currently offering pre-packed food boxes, but also offers a hot meal program every day of the week, runs the Community Kitchen Academy, and most recently has begun offering homebound delivery services. Feeding Chittenden serves over 12,000 people every year! To learn more about Feeding Chittenden, visit their website: www.feedingchittenden.org

We aren’t done yet, there’s even more! Before you go, make sure you stop at the People’s Garden, which is just a short walk from the Community Barn. Members of the Fair Share Program are invited and encouraged to stop by the garden and get their hands (just a little bit) dirty picking fresh flowers, herbs, tomatoes, jalapenos, and so much more.

Food is a powerful tool in creating connections, fostering community, and nourishing our bodies, minds and spirits. It’s inspiring to see so many individuals, groups, and organizations come together to support each other and celebrate good food!

The Fair Share program is no longer able to accommodate new individuals or families at this point in the season. If you’re interested in learning more or signing up for next year, please email Hannah Baxter, Gleaning and Food Access Manager, at [email protected]

If you have questions about any of the other programs mentioned here, please reach out to Morgan Milhomens, Everyone Eats Community Outreach & Distribution Manager, at [email protected]. If you have Everyone Eats specific questions, you can reach her at [email protected].

Written by Morgan Milhomens