Phase 1 of this capital project has been the relocation of our food shelf program
Formerly known as “the Food Shelf” and having operated from the Drop-In Center at 60 South Main Street since the 1980s, Groundworks’ program providing supplemental food to our neighbors in need served well over 3,700 people in over 1,400 households in 2018.
Originally a program of the Brattleboro Area Drop-In Center and operating out of a roughly 100 sq. ft. room in the South Main Street cape, the Food Shelf expanded in 2015—with the merger that created Groundworks Collaborative—and moved into the two-bay garage at the back of the property. The move increased the number of households that could “shop” the food pantry simultaneously, ultimately increasing the numbers of families and individuals we were able to serve. With added refrigeration capacity, the program has since grown to include a daily offering of fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as meat, bread, yogurt, and other perishable foods.
Chosen by polling staff and clients, the program is now called “Foodworks”—the name unveiled with the program’s re-launch at 141 Canal Street in August of 2019.
The relocation—to the empty storefront that had been Domino’s Pizza—has expanded access and parking and provides a better experience for patrons of the program.
While the program had been open three-and-a-half weekdays (24 hours each week) on South Main Street, the new hours for Foodworks offer some evening and weekend hours to help reach more of our region’s food insecure households.
Opening the program later in the day allows our staff to work with local grocery stores to pick up food and get it on the shelves prior to opening the program for the day, improving the selection for all patrons.
In addition to daily donations from local grocery and convenience stores, Foodworks is a member of the Vermont Foodbank, and spends roughly $3,400 a month on food purchased through the Foodbank to keep the shelves stocked for anyone with need. By leveraging a vast array of donations, Groundworks offers a wide variety of options to local households who may “shop” Foodworks (at no cost) once per month. Foodworks is intended to be a supplement to 3SquaresVT (formerly known as “food stamps” or “SNAP”) benefits. The program is often busiest at the end of the month when many Vermonters’ benefits have run out.
“Everyone has experienced having to lean on someone else at some point in their lives,” said Josh Davis, Groundworks’ Executive Director. “We’re here to be that support for our neighbors in a time of need and want to ensure that everyone feels welcome when they come through our doors.”
Foodworks staff are committed to making sure no one is turned away in an emergency and has consistently provided food to Groundworks’ Day Shelter program, so that those without housing and a place to store food can access food on a daily basis as needed. A regular supply of food to the Day Shelter at Groundworks Drop-In Center will ensure that this practice continues despite the relocation of the Foodworks program.
At Groundworks, we believe that access to quality food is a human right. Foodworks is a community resource meant for anyone with need in the region.
The program’s limit guidelines range from “take one per household” to “take as much as you need.” We trust families to most accurately determine what they need and we only limit the items we know will otherwise fly off the shelf. We also encourage people to come in weekly for extra fresh produce and bread.
Groundworks has a personalized intake process—taking into account that people have different needs based on their current situation, such as losing a job, relying on social security, or needing to follow a medical diet. While the program aims to ask for as little information as possible, patrons are asked to identify their situation so an appropriate plan can be made to ensure each household using the program has enough food. With the increased space we now have at the Canal Street location, we are now able to make these conversations with patrons more discreet and confidential.
The move to Canal Street has cost roughly $16,000, primarily due to the expense of building a walk-in cooler and freezer on the site. Generous donations from the community have yielded nearly the entire amount after a thoughtful donation from C&S Wholesale Grocers.
For more information about Foodworks or if you’re interested in volunteering, give us a call at 802-490-2412 or email: Foodworks@GroundworksVT.org