A new refrigerated van will allow Food Connects to expand delivery.
Posted Monday, October 8, 2018 8:15 pm
BRATTLEBORO — Food Connects, a nonprofit organization that focuses on farm-to-school programming and wholesale local food distribution, added a new refrigerated van to its Food Hub fleet for deliveries.
Food Connects was able to purchase the new refrigerated cargo van thanks to grant support from the State of Vermont Working Lands Enterprise Board and USDA Rural Development. The van allows Food Connects to have two drivers making deliveries simultaneously, increasing the amount of locally produced food delivered in southeast Vermont, southwest New Hampshire, and western Massachusetts. Deliveries are made to more than 100 hospitals, schools, independent grocers, co-ops, and other wholesale buyers in the region.
Adding the van to the Food Hub fleet was necessary to keep pace with the rapidly growing demand for local food in the region. And the arrival of the van was well-timed, as sales dramatically increased this fall. Food Connects has had multiple and consecutive record-breaking sales weeks since the purchase of the van, and sales in September were higher than any single month in the organization's history. All of these dollars stay local and go back to more than 60 local producers in the community.
The van presents even more opportunities for the future of Food Connects. It creates an opportunity to increase the variety of items sold, including the amount of frozen products it delivers to customers. Food Connects will be able to reach remote buyers more efficiently and more often, helping with their expansion of services to the Upper Valley region. It's also an investment in the effort to provide the best and most reliable customer service to all of the organization's customers, and it strengthens market development support for local agriculture and food businesses that is critical to the future of the rural economy.
Food Connects is an entrepreneurial nonprofit that delivers locally produced food as well as educational and consulting services aimed at transforming local food systems.
Thursday, October 18, 2018
By Meg McIntyre, Keene Sentinel Staff
For one area nonprofit organization, a new refrigerated delivery van will make it easier to connect people with locally grown food and products.
Food Connects is a Brattleboro-based nonprofit organization that delivers locally produced foods from more than 45 farms, vendors and producers to organizations throughout southeastern Vermont, southwestern New Hampshire and western Massachusetts.
For food producers — such as Monadnock Region participants like Farmer John’s Plot in Dublin, Picadilly Farm in Winchester and Terra Nova Coffee in Keene — Food Connects helps streamline the wholesale distribution process, according to Laura Carbonneau, communications manager.
“They don’t have to go and make all these individual deliveries; we aggregate it, and get as much back to the farmers as possible,” Carbonneau said.
Food Connects was recently able to purchase a new refrigerated delivery van through grant funding from the state of Vermont Working Lands Enterprise Board and from U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, which will allow for two delivery drivers to be on the road at one time.
Until now, the organization hasn’t always been able to meet its demand with only one box truck available for shipments. But with the new refrigerated van, the organization will be able to increase the number of deliveries it’s able to make, Carbonneau said.
“We’ll be able to increase in terms of not only how many, but where we’re going to be able to go, too,” Carbonneau said. “Because we are kind of concentrated in this southwest corner and southeast corner of Vermont and New Hampshire, and now we’ll be able to broaden that a little bit further.”
Food Connects serves a wide range of organizations, from the Monadnock Food Co-Op to Cheshire Medical Center to the ConVal Regional School District.
“When local schools and businesses are purchasing locally, they’re investing back into their community, and they’re getting food that’s not transported all the way from California or Florida,” she said. “It’s local, and it gives a better sense of connection to the community as well.”
Beyond helping organizations purchase farm-fresh products, Food Connects also runs farm-to-school programming with networking and educational events in Vermont schools. For example, the organization helps facilitate taste tests for the Harvest of the Month campaign, which promotes seasonal eating.
“Some of the support that we offer is helping food service directors figure out how to incorporate local food into their menus, because that’s not always the easiest thing to do,” Carbonneau said.
In 2017, Food Connects also took over management of Monadnock Menus, a program the organization helped start through the Cheshire County Conservation District in 2013 to help area farmers and food producers market and distribute their products to different enterprises.
Carbonneau noted that through operating that program, Food Connects has increased its focus on New Hampshire and the Monadnock Region.
“Really we do focus a lot on New Hampshire and getting food into New Hampshire schools and stores, and we purchase from a lot of different New Hampshire vendors and farmers and producers. So it’s really not just a Vermont thing, and it’s becoming more of a tri-state thing with Massachusetts too,” Carbonneau said.
“But right now it’s definitely the Twin States working together.”