Vermont Business Magazine The Vermont Foodbank is partnering with The Skinny Pancake to provide 20,000 meals to people in Vermont facing hunger over the next seven weeks. This unique partnership addresses the rapidly increasing food insecurity that has resulted from the coronavirus pandemic, while helping employ furloughed restaurant workers, supporting a local business, and providing a venue for food from local farmers.
School closures, rising unemployment and rising poverty due to quarantine and stay-at-home orders disproportionately impacts people already at risk of hunger.
“We’re seeing up to 100% more people reaching out for help,” says Vermont Foodbank CEO John Sayles. “And our network is working at the upper limit of its capacity to distribute more food than ever before to meet that need –all while shifting operations to reduce virus spread, and working with fewer volunteers than we usually rely on in order to ensure social distancing.”
The Foodbank and partner food shelves and meal sites have had to transition to ways to provide food that doesn’t spread the virus. This includes pre-bagging food, and providing to go meals. But these new methods of sharing food are more labor intensive, coming at a time when labor is harder to come by. They cannot host large groups of volunteers anymore and a significant portion of their volunteer base is over the age of 60 and at a higher risk for complications with the virus.
“All of these factors have combined to create a crisis of the charitable food system that is unlike anything we’ve seen in the 40-year history of food banking,” says Sayles. “In order to provide the quantities of prepared meals needed to support people facing hunger during this time, we must think creatively and collaborate in new ways.”
Meanwhile, as the crisis unfolded, The Skinny Pancake shifted gears to help. "With restaurants shutting down, our concern immediately turned to the security of our employees, suppliers, and other affected community members like artists and musicians. ShiftMeals has allowed us to put the resources we have, like our big centralized kitchen, talented kitchen crew, and a resilient supply chain, to work," says Founder/Owner Benjy Adler. "We're just so relieved to be in a position to help out with the resources that we do have and thereby deeply grateful to our partners and donors who have provided us with the missing pieces to make it happen. We're all in this together."
In late March, Skinny Pancake launched ShiftMeals, in partnership with the Intervale Center, Vermont Community Foundation, and High Meadows Fund as a local food response to COVID-19. “The way ShiftMeals is supporting the local food system alongside the VT Foodbank is incredibly dynamic and innovative,” shared Vermont Community Foundation Vice President for Grants Sarah Waring. “At the Community Foundation, we are proud to be supporting both this initiative and the intentional support for Vermont’s most vulnerable—our working families and our neighbors.”
Through ShiftMeals, anyone who is experiencing difficulty accessing food is invited to pick up meals at participating restaurants, food shelves, and community centers around the state. In addition to funding from local businesses and foundations, ShiftMeals has been made possible by donations via a GoFundMe. As of April 24th, ShiftMeals has produced and distributed more than 4,000 meals.
Now, the Vermont Foodbank is partnering with The Skinny Pancake to ramp up these efforts by purchasing 20,000 meals over the next seven weeks to distribute at partner food shelves and meals sites, mostly in Chittenden and Franklin Counties. “This will make a big difference in meeting the increasing and shifting need, while taking the strain of meal preparation off of our network,” says Sayles. “And we’re thrilled to be supporting a local business and their staff along the way.”
This Vermont Foodbank partnership will help ShiftMeals expand its reach. "With the standing orders from the Foodbank, we're providing up to 6,000 meals a week for folks who are struggling to get enough food, and we've been able to re-employ additional members of our team," says Adler. The Skinny Pancake is currently employing 28 workers, working almost exclusively on ShiftMeals.
"The scale of this crisis is so substantial," Adler adds, "The government and our existing safety nets will only be able to do so much. We all need to keep contributing to solutions wherever we can. I'm inspired to keep searching for creative, civilian responses in the face of growing food insecurity. The Foodbank is doing incredible work, we can and will help where we can."
About the Vermont Foodbank
The Vermont Foodbank is the state’s largest hunger relief organization, providing nutritious food through a network more than 300 community partners – food shelves, meal sites, senior centers, after-school programs, schools and hospitals. Food insecurity has increased dramatically as a result of the pandemic and the Vermont Foodbank and its network have been on the front lines, working to ensure that everyone has the food they need to maintain their health. Learn more at www.vtfoodbank.org.
About Skinny Pancake
Originating as a street cart in 2003, The Skinny Pancake currently has 10 brick and mortar locations across Vermont and New Hampshire. Their fast casual creperie offers a wide selection of sweet and savory foods and beverages via a deep commitment to local sourcing. In addition to their restaurants, The Skinny Pancake celebrates their communities and practices philanthropic capitalism through their proud membership of 1% For the Planet.
Source: Burlington, VT - The Vermont Foodbank 4.30.2020