BRATTLEBORO—Food Connects recently received a $50,000 Vermont Working Lands Enterprise Grant to support the expansion of the nonprofit’s local wholesale food delivery service.
The grant will help fund a second refrigerated truck, which complements a new walk-in cooler and freezer and will help it increase its sales and marketing capacity.
Food Connects, which merged with Monadnock Menus last autumn, started in 2013 with a mission to deliver “locally produced food as well as educational and consulting services aimed at transforming local food systems.”
Through its Food Hub, Food Connects sells fruit, vegetables, meats, dairy foods, and value-added items from 45 local farmers and producers.
Its customers include approximately 100 wholesale buyers in schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and retail and cooperative stores in Windham County and a small part of Windsor County in Vermont, and Cheshire County in New Hampshire.
The enterprise grant supports Food Connects’s 2018 goals, and their longer-term plans.
This year, Food Connects has raised $250,000 to scale up operations, open new markets for area farmers, and bring more local products to wholesale buyers.
“We have demonstrated that our business model can work locally, but for years our farms have been asking for access to larger markets,” Food Connects Executive Director Richard Berkfield said in a news release. “These funds allow us to sell more local food to new customers in nearby markets, allowing farms and food producers to focus on what they do best, which is producing great food for us to eat.”
Food Connects’s Administrative and Marketing Manager Sarah Loomis told The Commons the first step in the expansion is to “further develop our regional delivery area to the south and east. Our goal is to get more local food out into our surrounding communities in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Western Mass., and a second truck will help us."
Beyond that, said Loomis, the plan is to deliver to Boston and surrounding urban areas.
With these plans comes the need for more workers.
Food Connects is currently advertising for a new Food Hub logistics manager and will soon hire an additional driver to operate the new truck.
“We will also be expanding the roles of our current food hub staff,” said Loomis. “They will be doing more sales work, and we will also be able to provide our food producers with additional marketing support. We anticipate creating even more jobs as well over 2019.”
She noted Food Connects’s plan is to surpass $1 million in annual sales by 2020, by continuing to improve efficiency, warehousing, and logistics.
“The next big goals are to grow our successful model even further,” said Loomis.