partnership

Food Connects Partners with the NH Food Bank

Food Connects is partnering with the New Hampshire Food Bank, a program of Catholic Charities NH, to bring local produce to food pantries throughout New Hampshire. 

This spring, the New Hampshire Food Bank received a grant totaling $25,000 from Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation to provide local produce to food pantries in the Monadnock and Upper Valley regions of New Hampshire. The NH Food Bank partnered with Food Connects, based out of Brattleboro, VT, on the procurement and distribution of this farm fresh product. Food Connects delivers local food to schools, hospitals, restaurants, and grocery stores from a large network of regional farmers and producers. 

With Food Connects’ established delivery infrastructure in the Food Bank’s target areas, the partnership between the two organizations provided multiple deliveries of fresh fruits and vegetables to 9 New Hampshire food pantries, including LISTEN Food Pantry, the Jaffrey Food Pantry, the Community Kitchen of Keene, and the Upper Valley Senior Center, serving more than 8,829 people. According to Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap, 1 in 9 individuals and 12 percent of children in NH struggle with hunger. Both Food Connects and the NH Food Bank prioritize increasing access to local food throughout their communities. 

“Fresh produce is so critical to people’s health, yet often one of the hardest things for us to get our hands on,” says Angela Zhang, Program Services Director for LISTEN Community Services located in Lebanon, NH. “We can’t stress enough how thrilled people were to get such a variety of delicious fruits and vegetables—the strawberries and blueberries were especially a hit! It’s a welcome change from canned and dried goods. They were all snapped up in just two days!”

Scott Berzofsky, Food Hub Operations Coordinator, delivering fresh produce to LISTEN Community Services.

Scott Berzofsky, Food Hub Operations Coordinator, delivering fresh produce to LISTEN Community Services.

In the first round of deliveries, the grant funds allowed the food pantries to purchase over 30 locally produced products including 120 pounds of cucumbers, 240 pounds of ground beef, and 100 bunches of beets along with peppers, tomatoes, squash, yogurt, and cheese. This food not only feeds local community members but supports local farmers and producers—in fact, over 20 different producers in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts benefited from the partnership.

“We are really excited to partner with the NH Food Bank on this project!” says McKenna Hayes, Food Connects’ Operations Manager. “We know this is a traditionally under-served demographic and we sometimes have difficulty reaching them through our regular delivery locations. Everyone should have access to fresh produce, and we’re really lucky that we get to provide the aggregation and distribution services to help make that a reality this season. We look forward to expanding this program and continuing to partner with the NH Food Bank.”

“The New Hampshire Food Bank is proud to partner with Food Connects in providing these funds to get more fresh, nutritious food to those in need in western New Hampshire,” said Eileen Liponis, Executive Director of the New Hampshire Food Bank.  “Eating nutritious food, including more fresh fruits and vegetables, is the first step toward improving on one’s health.”

Community Partnership Prioritizes Local Food

Local food is a top priority in the partnership between the Monadnock Food Co-op and Food Connects. Over the past four years, the Monadnock Food Co-op has purchased over $191,000 in local food from Food Connects. The Co-op purchases from 32 of Food Connects over 60 producers. What does that mean for the two communities? Increased support for these local producers and community access to dozens of fresh, local products.

The staff at Food Connects understands that it isn’t always easy for consumers to access local food. Food Connects Food Hub aims to make it easier by offering a variety of locally sourced wholesale products, from multiple producers, all on one bill. Ordering and delivery are seamless, allowing for businesses like the Co-op to focus on what they do best—providing local food to the community.

MM New Logo Final TranspBackground.png

Food Connects has worked with the Co-op since 2014, originally under the name Monadnock Menus. This partnership continues to enable Food Connects to grow in the Monadnock region, alongside other vital partners like Stonewall Farm and the Cheshire County Conservation District. The Co-op is an anchor point for Food Connects—providing a large base for customers, five different departments that purchase local foods, and continued collaboration for the growth of local food sales in the region. Food Connects has sold over $675k in local products to southwestern New Hampshire businesses and institutions since 2014, keeping all of those dollars within the community and with the help of the Co-op, they hope to increase that number significantly over the next few years.

“The co-op has been our anchor in New Hampshire since the beginning of Monadnock Menus,” said Alex McCullough, Food Connects Food Hub General Manager. “They have an incredible level of energy and passion for local food and for serving their local community. With their impending expansion, that excitement continues to grow. They’re constantly looking for the next new, exciting local product. For us, that’s a big deal. It means we can offer our producers a real opportunity to get their products in front of a huge number of shoppers.”

A locally focused food hub helps the Monadnock Food Co-op meet a number of its ends statements: strengthening a healthy, sustainable food system and supporting local farmers and producers.  Last year, the co-op reached over $5 million in local sales from 346 producers. The co-op looks forward to future growth, planning for an expansion project this fall.

17972207_1359620730785505_6630629364520521571_o.jpg

“The greatest benefit of working with Food Connects is that it truly connects us to farmers we don’t have a direct relationship with and wouldn’t be able to deliver to us,” said Allen Raymond, Producer Manager at the Co-op. “Food Connects makes purchasing local products so simple and straightforward. It’s also nice only having one invoice rather than having multiple farmers with different invoices where it can be easier to misplace them. Having the online platform allows us to be much more efficient with our time and not have to chase down emails looking for product lists, case sizing, and pricing. All in all, working with Food Connects is a great resource for us and the team they have are amazing and make working with the company even easier.”