Food Connects awarded grant to access, distribute local farm products

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets recently announced $300,000 in sub-awards to five regional nonprofit food hubs, including Brattleboro's Food Connects, as part of a 2021 Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC) award.

NBRC is a federal-state partnership to advance economic development and infrastructure in economically distressed counties across Maine, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont. The Agency of Commerce and Community Development serves as the Vermont side of this partnership, identifying opportunities for NBRC investment that strengthen the local economy and quality of life for all Vermonters.

Food hubs such as Food Connects are businesses that offer local supply chain support to collect, distribute, and market local food products from various farms and producers. They may sell produce, meat, dairy, value-added products, or baked goods to wholesale, retail, or institutional markets, and through source-identification, ensure the buyer knows where each product came from.

Many of Vermont's food hubs also provide farm-to-school program support, consumer education, transparent pricing, and high-quality customer support.

Food Connects organizers say they will use the $95,764 grant to help build out their cold, frozen, and dry storage capacity in their new aggregation space. This will expand their capacity to serve markets in Boston, New York City, and Washington, D.C., in collaboration with Vermont Way Foods.

The Agency of Agriculture said a priority focus of this NBRC award is to expand Vermont producers' access to out-of-state metropolitan markets and support opportunities for farm and food producers of many sizes to access new markets, according to a news release. “These awards recognize the need for more local food collection and distribution experienced by Vermont food hub organizations and the supply chain disruption impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

They said this award “also recognizes the importance of bolstering regional food system infrastructure. Food hubs play a critical role in supporting farm and food businesses of all sizes.”

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