Built for Times Like These – Our Response to COVID-19
When we started up our food security program in 2018, we didn’t foresee it becoming a focal point of our service provision. Some observed that such a program might even distract from our primary mission. But food is a critical thread running through so many aspects of our lives – social, mental and physical health, economic – so perhaps it’s no surprise that it is our food program that is now making it possible for us to be there in a direct and helpful way for our community of families, who are struggling with a variety of stressors in the present circumstances.
We have restructured our food distribution from a walk-in pantry to curbside and delivery systems in both Rutland and Brandon. We have gone from serving 65 families per month to serving up to 180 families per week – distributing close to 32,000 meal equivalents in groceries each month!
We navigated some treacherous waters in 2019 with persistence, creativity and adaptability. Then COVID-19 flooded in, with a surge of uncertainty, insecurity and fear. But the experience of 2019 anchored us. We took the situation seriously but calmly, and thoughtfully and deliberately shifted course. The food program now provides a vital way for us to sustain consistent connections between staff and families in our early childhood education and other programs. The food security effort maintained our cohesion, relationships and continuity as we waited for in-house programming to reinitiate.
All of our staff has pitched in in some way – handling food deliveries from our partners like Vermont Food Bank, stocking shelves, loading boxes and bags, and working the curbside on Friday distribution days, as well as delivering groceries to families experiencing transportation obstacles.
Even as we re-open for early childhood education and start up our Saplings literacy program for K-4 kids, the food security program deepens its roots – because COVID-19 is far from over. This week, our staff got busy planting the raised beds at our Brandon site, which will ultimately help feed kids at the center.