ShiftMeals is excited to launch a new GrowTeam initiative which invites Vermonters onto local farms and gardens across the state to grow their own food. By providing access to land and education, ShiftMeals hopes to foster a more sustainable local food system and empower others to take the same actions in their own communities.
The initiative is designed to empower underemployed and food insecure Vermonters to grow food for themselves and their neighbors in need. Through community partnerships, ShiftMeals is providing gardens, mentorship, collaborators, and land so that GrowTeam members can get growing even without prior experience or access to garden inputs. In exchange for a commitment of about 8 hours/week, GrowTeam members will bring home a weekly harvest from their site throughout the season.
With over 80,000 Vermonters losing jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic at its peak, and state food shelves inundated with people to feed, The Skinny Pancake launched ShiftMeals just weeks after Governor Scott declared a State of Emergency. ShiftMeals emerged in rapid response, mobilizing connections in Vermont’s local food system with The Skinny Pancake’s capacity as a statewide restaurant group to produce and distribute nourishing meals for those in need. To date Skinny Pancake has produced and distributed nearly 40,000 free meals to individuals in Franklin, Chittenden, Lamoille, Washington and Windsor counties.
Building on this platform of a local food response to COVID-19, ShiftMeals has launched 7 GrowTeam sites across the state and is actively seeking new farm and garden partners to host GrowTeam Members.
Henry Harris from the Center for Grassroots Organizing, a GrowTeam site in Marshfield, VT explains, “This food isn’t being grown for The Skinny Pancake, it’s being grown for volunteers so that they can benefit from all this work and take those veggies home with them. It’s a really multifaceted therapeutic result for the mind, the body, the community. It really couldn’t have come at a better time.”
Through ShiftMeals, The Skinny Pancake continues to make and serve free meals through restaurants and community partnerships and has set a new goal to serve another 75,000 meals through the end of the year. And beyond those meals, ShiftMeals is advocating to create a statewide program that engages restaurants in Vermont’s mass feeding plan. Skinny Pancake owner Benjy Adler explains, “Restaurants are well-positioned to help feed our communities. In fact, we’re in the business of feeding our neighbors. We believe The Skinny Pancake and other restaurants can be part of the social safety net during a crisis like this. It’s efficient, empowering, and heartwarming to engage our local restaurants to help address the hunger crisis that has been revealed by COVID-19.”
Jean Hamilton, ShiftMeals Director says “The ShiftMeals story is one of community coming together, responding to the urgency of now, to support each other in the best ways we are capable. Hundreds of Vermonters have contributed their time, money, skills, food, and requests to join in a movement building a reciprocal local food community.”
The goal of ShiftMeals has been to make nourishing food available to everyone in our state: from the newly food insecure to Vermont’s most vulnerable populations. Delivering meals is one way to address food insecurity, another is to empower communities to feed themselves and their neighbors.
Through partnerships, ShiftMeals provides land, startup inputs, collaborators, and garden mentors to help folks overcome barriers to growing food for themselves.
If you or someone you know has viable farm land to share, or if you’re interested in growing food for yourself and becoming a GrowTeam member please sign up here.