Windham County Group Sells Their Soup To Support Democrats Around The U.S.

Sep 19, 2019

There aren't any statewide political races in Vermont this year, but a group of soup makers in Windham County is actively engaged in this November's election.

"Be the Change Corn Chowder" is this month's soup selection from the Southern Vermont Sister District Project, a group that came together soon after the 2016 presidential election.

Containers of soup are lined up in a cooler for pickup. Some people who donate to the project send their soup on to the local food shelf.
Credit Howard Weiss-Tisman / VPR

Diane Shamas, of Brattleboro, said she and some friends were looking for a way to raise money for Democratic candidates outside of Vermont who were locked in tight races in their states.

"It really came about after Trump was elected, and trying to figure out what was something I could do," Shamas said. "And getting interested in the idea of helping states that had a different political makeup than Vermont. Vermont's already such a blue state. There wasn't that much we felt like we could do within Vermont, at a state level, that would ripple out to the national level."

The Vermont group works through the national Sister District Project, which tracks down Democratic candidates that are running competitive races to either flip or hold onto a seat in the state legislature.

"We have been able to send our contribution to candidates who've really noticed the impact of our donations on their races. They're much, much smaller financial races, and so the funds that we can raise here in Vermont make a difference." — Diane Shamas, Southern Vermont Sister District Project

According to Shamas, since starting the project the group has raised more than $22,000. The money went to four candidates in Virginia, Florida and Pennsylvania, and every one of those lawmakers won their race.

"We have been able to send our contribution to candidates who've really noticed the impact of our donations on their races," Shamas said. "They're much, much smaller financial races, and so the funds that we can raise here in Vermont make a difference."

The Sister District Project is putting its focus on the 2019 election with an eye toward redistricting in 2020. This year the Southern Vermont Sister District Project is sending its money to the campaigns for Larry Barnett and Hala Ayala, two candidates for seats in the Virginia House of Delegates.

 

Elizabeth Christie picks up her 'Be the Change Corn Chowder' at the Putney General Store. Christie has been involved with the Southern Vermont Sister District Project from the start.
Credit Howard Weiss-Tisman / VPR

About 50 people make soup for the Vermont group; they buy their own ingredients and volunteer their time. Meanwhile another 150 people have picked up a quart of soup at drop-off points in Putney and Brattleboro over the past few years. It's $50 to get one quart of soup a month for four months.

Elizabeth Christie has been buying soup for most of the two years, and she made her way up to the second floor of the Putney General Store to pick up this month's chowder.

Christie considers herself to be pretty politically active, and she spends a lot of her time advocating for better early childcare in Vermont. She said the Sister District Project makes sense to her.

"I have certain values and — whether they are healthy early childhoods for all children, or good food, or some liberal free-thinking candidates around this country, at all levels, who can be honest and visionary leaders — I want to support that," Christie said.