Senator Patrick Leahy says it was local farms and food systems that helped provide food security, and kept Vermonters fed through the pandemic.
“There is no roadmap for something like this,” Sen. Leahy said. “We had thousands of car lined up for food, had people wondering if they were going to eat again and is it safe.”
Vermont’s senior senator says $11 million are coming to the Green Mountain State. It will benefit the state’s Food System Research Center, a collaboration between UVM and the USDA. Scientists are being chosen now to work on campus alongside university researchers.
“We’re going to make sure food is available to all Vermonters,” Leahy said. “No matter where they are, no matter their income, no matter their race.”
The announcement came on the heels of a round table regarding food systems research and delivering food assistance to Vermont communities. Participants say it’s critical to link the federal funds to local food producers. They asked for some flexibility, so smaller-scale Vermont agriculture has a fair chance.
“To have stronger rules in place to make sure that local component means not local in the mid=atlantic and northwest,” said John Sayles with the Vt Foodbank. “But that we can really bring in and be able to grow small scale farm operations.”
School leaders also touched on how transformative the state’s free school lunch program has been for struggling students.
“It’s that disparity that’s awkward and uncomfortable, it causes some students to not go through the line and sit down and say they’re not hungry,” said Scott Fay. “With these waivers that are in place, we’re all the same.”