BENNINGTON >>The Vermont Foodbank is stretching beyond normal distribution services to bring food to those in need.
Veggie VanGo, the Foodbank's new mobile pantry, will deliver fresh fruits and vegetables to schools, hospitals and food insecure families.
The van will make its first grocery delivery this Friday to the University of Vermont Health Network-Central Vermont Medical Center (CVMC). It will occur every third Friday of the month until June to accommodate the off season harvest.
"It's a pretty robust program through the winter months to continue the access to fresh food," CVMC Chief Operating Officer Nancy Lothian said. "One delivery will easily feed up to 300 families."
Bringing food to centralized distribution sites allow clients to get groceries immediately. The United Counseling Service (UCS) has also utilized this service.
"We have a number of initiatives, this is really targeted at getting healthy, fresh fruit and vegetables to people," Vermont Foodbank's Director of Communications Judy Stermer said. "Oftentimes the foodbank doesn't meet or interact with the person who needs food. This is getting to the heart of some direct service."
Stermer said there's a goal to provide schools with 230,000 pounds of produce during the school year. Veggie VanGo will work with five schools and hospitals during the year as well as 60 housing sites, and depending on the turnout. Expanding to further distribution sites in 2017 will depend on allotted funds, Stermer said.
"This is a great answer to some real needs throughout the state," Stermer said. "It's about getting fresh fruits and veggies to people who need it and may not have access to transportation or a food site. They're receiving it at school or at their house."
Food insecure families are eligible to get home deliveries because some are unable to leave their home, Stermer said. The program costs nothing and invites anyone to take what they need, without question, during distribution times, according to the Foodbank's website.
On Friday from 9 to 11 a.m., families and individuals can pick up fresh produce and groceries in conference rooms 1 and 2 on the lower level of the Berlin hospital, according to Vermont Business Magazine.
Additionally, the Foodbank supplies ingredients to CVMC to host six cooking classes sponsored by Hunger Mountain Coop which started last week and will run each Wednesday from 530 to 7 p.m. until Feb. 17. The class is free of charge and was full with 10 enrolled at first one, Lothian said.
"Part of the partnership goes beyond just getting the vegetables," Lothian explained. "Along with having individuals to pick up produce, they learn how to cook healthy food on a monetary budget."
For more information on this initiative visit www.vtfoodbank.org.