Food and Farm Initiative Grantmaking

The Food and Farm Initiative aims to demonstrate that Vermont can increase food security while strengthening its local food system. Over the five years of the initiative, we are supporting the creation of programs, systems, and a culture that together promote a just local food system which sustains farmers and feeds all Vermonters regardless of how much they make or where they live.

In its first three and a half years, the Initiative has primarily focused on expanding farm-to-school programming, a proven way to get healthy, local food to children from all financial backgrounds and educate the next generation of food buyers. So far, the Foundation has awarded more than $2.2 million in grants to organizations across the state working to connect all Vermonters with healthy, local food.

Read about some of the projects and organizations the Initiative has funded below. The years listed indicate when the grant was awarded by the Vermont Community Foundation. The grant-funded activity often took place in the following year(s). Grant periods ranged from six months to twenty-four months depending on the project.

Check back soon to learn more about projects that recieved funding in late 2016!

Building Strong, Stigma-Free School Meal Programs
Hunger Free Vermont—Grants awarded in 2012 and 2014

Vermont became the first state in the country to offer free school lunches to all low-income children, thanks to legislative efforts by Hunger Free Vermont in 2013 with support from the Food and Farm Initiative. The Initiative also supported Hunger Free Vermont to provide training for school food service directors to help them implement the enhanced federal nutrition requirements and to encourage school breakfast programs. In 2014, the Foundation awarded Hunger Free Vermont a second, two-year grant to continue their work to expand school breakfast programs and to provide support to schools newly eligible to create universal school meal programs. By the end of 2015, more than 11,000 Vermont kids were attending schools where meals are provided to all students.

Vermont Farm to Plate Network
The Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund—Grants awarded in 2012, 2013, and 2014  

The Vermont Farm to Plate Network is a network of more than 350 farm and food sector organizations working to increase economic development in the farm and food sector and improve access to healthy, local food for all Vermonters, as laid out in the state’s Farm to Plate Strategic Plan. The Food and Farm Initiative specifically supports the coordination the Farm to Plate Network and Farm to Plate’s focus on increasing food access for Vermonters with limited resources. As of 2016, Farm to Plate has entered its sixth year, and the trends in the state are heading in the right direction; there are more jobs in the food sector, and local food consumption has increased from 5% to 7%.

Scaling Up and Out to Increase Local Food in Institutions
Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT)—Grants awarded in 2013, 2014, and 2015
Vermont Housing and Conservation Board—Grant awarded in 2012
Partners have included Addison County Relocalization Network, Food Connects, Green Mountain Farm-to-School, Hunger Free Vermont, and Rutland Area Farm and Food Link

Providing expert training and support to schools, farmers, and distributors is a linchpin in the effort to increase the amount of local food in schools and other institutions, like senior centers. In 2013, NOFA-VT and the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board co-led a Farm-to-Institution project to better understand what producers need in order to scale up to meet institutional demand. NOFA-VT developed a series of tools for school communities that help them create a shared framework for setting and achieving goals related to providing local food to students. These tools and one-on-one coaching, delivered by NOFA-VT and community partners, are driving significant shifts in purchasing. In 2016 and beyond, NOFA-VT will extend its expert support of farm-to-school programs to include the summer months, a time of agricultural abundance in Vermont as well as a time of need for kids who rely on school meals for nourishment.

Changing Behavior When It Comes to Local Food
Food Connects—Grants awarded in 2012, 2013, and 2014
Partners have included Green Mountain Farm-to-School, and Rutland Area Farm and Food Link

In 2013, Food Connects established Equitable Food Buying Clubs in partnership with active farm-to-school programs in the Brattleboro area to provide a convenient, affordable option for purchasing locally-grown food to parents and staff. In the second year of funding, Green Mountain Farm-to-School and Rutland Area Farm and Food Link joined in with the aim of ensuring that farm-to-school lessons have an impact at home as well. With a focus on those facing food access and food security, the partners engaged parents through focus groups, cooking demos, and the school-based Local Food Buying Clubs. Today, many of the buying clubs and cooking demos continue based on strong foundation established with support of the Food and Farm Initiative. Watch a short video about this project.

Vermont Harvest of the Month
Green Mountain Farm-to-School—Grants awarded in 2012, 2013, and 2014
Partners have included Food Connects and Upper Valley Farm to School (now a part of Vital Communities)

Launched in 2013 with support from the Food and Farm Initiative, Harvest of the Month is a statewide marketing campaign that educates children about local food, markets local foods to school cafeterias, and supports Vermont farms. It provides ready-to-go materials for classrooms, cafeterias, and communities that feature a different Vermont-grown crop each month. As of 2015, more than 60% of Vermont schools were already participating and more stores, preschools, senior centers, and schools sign up every month.

Just Cut: Vermont Produce for Schools
The Center for an Agricultural Economy—Grants awarded in 2013, 2014, and 2015
Partners have included the Intervale Center, Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont, and various regional farm-to-school organizations

With the support of the Food and Farm Initiative and the High Meadows Fund, the Center for an Agricultural Economy launched a new line of lightly-processed Vermont vegetables for sale to schools and other Vermont institutions in 2014. Initial work included procuring, processing, and selling Vermont vegetables to a test market of 20 schools in coordination with local farm-to-school nonprofits to conduct financial and sensitivity analyses of each product and its supply chain. The partners sold 60,000 pounds of Vermont vegetables in 2015 and are continuously working to increase yields, lower production costs, test new products (cabbage and parsnips are currently up) and engage more farms. Watch a short video about this project.

Farm to School Institute
Vermont FEED (Food Education Every Day, a partnership between Shelburne Farms and the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont)—Grants awarded in 2012 and 2013

With support from the Food and Farm Initiative, Vermont FEED (Food Education Every Day) engaged teams from 24 schools in its Farm to School Institute and follow-up with mentoring throughout the school year. This intensive, residential program supports Vermont school communities to establish new or strengthen existing farm-to-school programs, and helps them plan how to serve more local food and integrate healthy eating into curriculum and school culture.

Vermont Farm to School Network: From Strategy to Action
Vermont FEED—Grants awarded in 2012, 2013, and 2015
Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets—Grant awarded in 2013

In order to capitalize on the grassroots momentum in farm-to-school programming, the Vermont Farm-to-School Network undertook a planning process to move it from a loose collective to a goal-oriented collaborative effort. Together, Vermont FEED—a partnership of Shelburne Farms and NOFA-VT—and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture spearheaded the process of developing a systems map to identify key levers to achieve vibrant farm-to-school programming in the state with input from more than 60 farm-to-school stakeholders. In 2015 and 2016, the Network has transitioned to a new leadership structure with project-based work teams focused on those levers, including a team dedicated to the compilation of stories that communicate the educational value of farm to school and increase buy-in among key school decision-makers.

Capacity Building for Regional Farm-to-School Organizations
Upper Valley Farm to School (now part of Vital Communities)—Grants awarded in 2013 and 2014
Partners have included Food Connects and Green Mountain Farm-to-School

To strengthen farm-to-school programs across the state, the partners organized a community of practice that worked to increase the capacity of existing and emerging regional farm-to-school organizations. This included coordinated planning for four regional conferences as well as training on food security and fundraising. The partners also developed and piloted a new assessment and planning tool that can be used with farm-to-school programs statewide.

Professional Development for Regional Farm-to-School Organizations
Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB)—Grants awarded in 2013, 2014, and 2015

Building upon its track record of supporting agricultural businesses and nonprofits serving low-income populations, VHCB’s Farm and Forest Viability program is providing strategic planning, business planning, and targeted consulting to key regional food system organizations actively engaged in developing local markets and increasing farm-to-school activities in their areas of the state. In addition, VHCB is working with its affordable housing partners to consider new or deeper partnerships that address food insecurity with local food.

Growing the Independent Retail Market for All Vermonters
The Intervale Center—Grant awarded in 2015
Partners include the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund and Vermont Retail and Grocers Association

This research project is a first step in supporting Vermont's nearly 400 independent food retailers in increasing the availability of local foods in their stores. On behalf of the Farm to Plate Network's Aggregation and Distribution work group, the Intervale Center led a research team that collected baseline information on local foods availability and interviewed store owners and managers about what would help them to stock more local foods. This research will inform the creation of technical assistance and support programs for store owners.

Strengthening the Bennington County Food System
Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB)—Grants awarded in 2013, 2014, and 2015

Partners include Bennington Farm to Plate Council, and Northshire Grows

This small grant supports Bennington County’s plans to develop a more cohesive effort in support of local agriculture and increased food security in the region. In addition to facilitation and communication, BCRC is pursuing a study on the creation of a retail outlet for fresh food in downtown Bennington.

Increasing Innovation in Vermont's Supply Chain for Farms and Schools
Food Connects—Grant awarded in 2015
Center for an Agricultural Economy—Grant awarded in 2015
Partners include Green Mountain Farm-to-School, NOFA-VT, and Vermont Farm to Plate Network

Food Connects and its partners aim to stimulate innovation in the supply and distribution of local foods to Vermont schools. Through this project, critical and missing market data on school food purchases are being collected and shared with interested producers so that they are better able to grow, process, and package foods in ways that work for schools. In addition, a supporting marketing campaign will highlight the foods in cafeterias statewide to promote school meals.

Northwest Healthy Roots

Northwestern Medical Center (in partnership with the High Meadows Fund)—Grant awarded in 2015

In 2015, the Food and Farm Initiative expanded its support to include Northwest Healthy Roots, a growing community effort to increase local food access and farm viability in Franklin and Grand Isle counties. Priorities include the expansion of farm-to-school programming in Franklin County with training from VT FEED and increased distribution of local foods within the region with business planning support from VHCB’s Farm and Forest Viability program. 

Building Champions: Capacity Building for Farm to School Coordinators
Green Mountain Farm-to-School—Grant awarded in 2015

Partners include Vermont Farm to School Network, Food Connects

In a project identified as a “key lever” by the Vermont Farm to School Network, This project will increase the capacity and effectiveness of farm-to-school coordinators, the boots-on-the-ground champions who work day in, day out at neighborhood schools to facilitate farm-to-school activities. Green Mountain Farm-to-School will lead a multi-organization work team dedicated to facilitating peer learning and providing easily accessible resources.

Beyond the Early Adopter: Helping More Vermonters See Vermont's Food as Their Own
Rutland Area Farm and Food Link—Grant awarded in 2015

Partners include Vital Communities, Vermont Farm to Plate Network

Together, Rutland Area Farm and Food Link and Vital Communities aim to broaden the range of community members engaged in their regions’ local farm economy through the creation of consumer marketing campaigns that appeal across the income spectrum. Together, the partners will create, test, and evaluate messaging to two consumer groups, such as “men who cook” or “recently diagnosed,” that have not necessarily embraced the local foods yet. The pilots will be run at schools and worksites already served by the partners such as Vermont Country Store and Rutland Regional Medical Center. The Vermont Farm to Plate Network will support the development of impact measurement tools and share findings across the state.

Measuring the Economic Value of Farm to School

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets—Grant awarded in 2015

In a project identified as a “key lever” by the Vermont Farm to School Network, researchers will investigate and model the economic contribution of farm-to-school programming in the state in ways that are useful to lawmakers, school board members, administrators, funders, and investors. This research is the missing link in making the case for farm to school.

Additional Grants

Vermont FRESH - 2014, 2015, and 2016 as part of Vermont Restaurant Week
Vermont Foodbank

Congressional Hunger Fellows for Vermont - 2014
Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, Center for an Agricultural Economy, Vermont Foodbank

Results-Based Accountability Training - 2014
Salvation Farms