Everyone Eats Supports Restaurants, Farms, and Families During Pandemic

For Immediate Release: 10/22/20

Jean Hamilton, Vermont Everyone Eats Program Coordinator, SEVCA
Jessica Edgerly Walsh, Everyone Eats Hub Coordinator, Capstone Community Action

Everyone Eats Supports Restaurants, Farms, and Families during Pandemic

Covid-relief program on track to deliver 400,000 restaurant-prepared meals

Berlin, VT: Everyone Eats organizers and partners gathered at one of the program’s weekly distribution points to highlight the impact the Covid-relief program has made in the eight weeks since its launch. In August, Vermont’s legislature directed $5 million in CARES Act funding to create the program which hires restaurants to prepare meals for Vermonters hit by the pandemic.

“Just three months since dollars were granted, Everyone Eats hubs have launched in all 14 counties, engaging more than 100 Vermont restaurants, and distributing meals at over 130 distribution sites.” said Steve Geller at Southeast Vermont Community Action (SEVCA), the agency overseeing the statewide effort. “The COVID pandemic has asked many of us to step up in our communities. With Vermont Everyone Eats, SEVCA saw an opportunity to directly help Vermont communities while furthering our belief that that poverty need not be a permanent condition, that people can be empowered to rise out of poverty, and that the strength of our communities is measured by the quality of life of everyone within them.”

Restaurants participating in the program are required to purchase 10% or more of the ingredients for the Everyone Eats meals from Vermont farmers and food producers. Brittany Sperber of Skinny Pancake and ShiftMeals co-coordinates Everyone Eats of Central Vermont, working with restaurants to adjust their menus and build relationships with local vendors. “The 12 central Vermont restaurants participating in the program have consistently purchased over 30% of their ingredients locally,” said Sperber.

“The Everyone Eats meals that we’ve added to our Healthcare Shares have done an amazing job showcasing the local produce our clients are receiving in their weekly farmshare,” said Jess Laporte, the Community Health Program Manager at the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps. “And we’ve only gotten fantastic reviews of the cooking!”

Advocates are celebrating the strategy of tying food assistance to local economic development. Restaurants have been hard hit as the pandemic has turned their world upside down. “It was easy to get started in the program, and it’s provided consistent revenue while we reconfigure our businesses to this new normal,” said Rich McSheffrey, the owner of Cornerstone Pub and Kitchen. “Now that we’re open again, our business is at 40-50% of where we were last fall - and I consider us lucky to even have that!”

The legislative intent in passing H.966 and creating the program was to benefit restaurant, farm - and family. “Every aspect of our daily operation has had to change, and change again as the hospital has faced the Covid pandemic,” said Robert Patterson, Vice President of Human Resources and Clinical Operations at Central Vermont Medical Center. “The community support we’ve received has been invaluable.” The hospital is hosting weekly meal distributions for both employees and patients. “If you’re a single mother and nurse’s assistant facing everything the pandemic has thrown at you is just impossible,” said Tawyna Kristen, the director of Green Mountain United Way. “Changes at work, changes with your childcare - all coming at once, while you’re just trying to keep your family safe. The least we can do is send you home with dinner.”

Everyone Eats meals are available through a variety of distribution channels including food shelves, community meal sites, healthcare clinics, day cares, and dedicated outdoor meal distribution hubs. Meals are coordinated at the community level by 16 community hubs, or collaborations that have formed to administer this program.

To find a distribution site near you, go to www.vteveryoneeats.org and select Find A Meal. Vermonters can also download digital vouchers to be used in participating restaurants from the Vermont Everyone Eats Digital Voucher app, created by Localvore – a Vermont tech company. For information about Everyone Eats Digital Vouchers visit: www.localvorepassport.com/everyone-eats/

Currently, the program is funded through mid-December of this year. “Across the state, we’ve built a significant and successful relief program in a matter of weeks. Vermonters never fail to rise when challenges loom large,” said Sue Minter, Executive Director of Capstone Community Action. “We’re calling for Congress to pass a stimulus bill to extend this needed help for our restaurants and hungry Vermonters. Winter is around the corner and with it, the growing need for food, heat and economic security.”

About Vermont Everyone Eats: Vermont Everyone Eats provides nutritious meals to Vermonters in need of food assistance as well as a stabilizing source of income for Vermont restaurants, farmers, and food producers. Vermont Everyone Eats is funded by the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund and made possible through a grant provided by the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development to Southeastern Vermont Community Action.

For more information, visit: www.vteveryoneeats.org

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