To Collect Food Donations Year-Round, Lamoille Project Gets Creative
Vermonters do a pretty good job of filling their local food shelves with Thanksgiving turkeys and Christmas cranberry sauce. But donations can take a sharp drop with the start of the New Year. The Lamoille Neighborhood Food Project aims to address such dips by making donating food as easy as putting an extra can in your cart.
Lamoille Community Food Share volunteer Ellen Waldman spearheaded the Lamoille Neighborhood Food Project, which is modeled after a similar program in Ashland, Oregon. She says donors are given a reusable shopping bag to fill up at home, and a neighborhood coordinator collects the bags every other month.
“We’re just asking, pick up an extra item when you go shopping," Waldman explains. "Your bag is at home. You come home, you unpack your groceries, you put it in that bag. It accumulates and over the course of eight weeks. If you have eight things in that bag, that’s fantastic.”
Because Lamoille County is largely rural, Waldman says they use the term "neighborhood" loosely.
"The neighborhood concept isn’t necessarily the people who live on your block, because a lot of Vermont and this area is not really set up in neighborhoods," she says. "But people work at places where they’re in a community of people they work with, or they’re in an organization like a book club, or hiking club or whatever it is.”
The project has been in place for a year and Waldman says it's going well, but they need to get more people involved. She hopes to achieve that goal with a new partnership with local libraries. Now, when library patrons are checking out books they can also take home a Neighborhood Food Project bag. When they return their books, they can return the bag containing donated food. Waldman said all of the libraries in Lamoille Community Food Share's coverage area have signed on to the project.
“They’re a great partner with us now, and we’re really excited about seeing that part of this program grow," she says. "It’s a little tweak that we’ve added, after a year of seeing that we needed to make it really even easier for people to participate.”
Waldman says the project has brought not only more donations to Lamoille Community Food Share, but also some much needed product variety to the shelves as well. To help encourage healthier choices, the project has a website with a product wish-list. There's also information online on becoming a donor or a coordinator, and a donation button where one can buy a "virtual bag" for a monetary donation.