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Feeding Chittenden adapting to increased demand

Published: Jul. 22, 2020 at 8:26 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 22, 2020 at 12:12 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Feeding Chittenden crews estimate about 20,000 people in Chittenden County aren’t sure where they’re getting their next meal and the pandemic has only made that worse.

Already in the past four months, Feeding Chittenden has distributed more than 4,000 boxes of groceries and served more than 500 morning meals. But bonus unemployment checks run out in just days and more people will likely line up for help.

“We are trying to figure out how to get food out to people in the community,” said David Francis, the morning chef at Feeding Chittenden.

For roughly two years, Francis has been cooking about 1,000 meals a week for those in the Chittenden County community. A few months ago, the job he loved became not only more essential, but also increasingly taxing.

“It was a little stressful because we were working, we weren’t at home,” said Francis.

Feeding Chittenden couldn’t slow down in the face of the pandemic, so they decided to adapt instead.

“We have completely changed the way they distribute food to the public,” said Anna McMahon, the donor and community engagement manager for Feeding Chittenden.

She says the pandemic has been an opportunity to spread their reach into the community and develop new ways to reach more people.

With the bonus $600 coming off unemployment checks at the end of this week, McMahon anticipates more people will be in search of food.

“We anticipate with those benefits running out that there will be an increased need and more people coming in to use our services,” she said.

Here’s what is changing:

  • More food delivery services for people who can’t or aren’t comfortable leaving home.
  • Serving people outside the food shelf, so they don’t have to come inside.
  • Working to launch an online marketplace where people can choose what they want to
  • eat, it gets boxed up and they can pick up their meals.
  • Spending more time collaborating with community groups so people can find food wherever they are.

But there is still room to grow. McMahon says that they are looking to offer more choice, create an online market for people to shop, and reach further into the community and partner with other local outreach groups.

In the meantime, they are also excited that they can offer their Community Kitchen Academy again

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Our Community Kitchen Academy classes have resumed with a new design to help students learn culinary skills and gain...

Posted by Feeding Chittenden on Thursday, July 16, 2020

“We also have our culinary program that’s aimed at educating unemployed or underemployed people and getting them jobs once they graduate,” said McMahon.

The Community Kitchen Academy includes working and learning in the community garden, serving food in the Good Food truck and learning lessons on knife skills, sanitation and, of course, cooking.

Although dealt a difficult hand, McMahon says they choose to see the positive.

“I think we are sort of trying to be more positive, in the sense that this has forced us to really grow and adapt and change. And I think ultimately we will be able to better serve our recipients,” she said.

And for Chef Francis, the mission remains the same.

“I look forward to the day that we are cranking out more food and people are getting it,” he said.

Copyright 2020 WCAX. All rights reserved.

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