NEK restaurants, non-profit work together to put food on the table

Published: Nov. 14, 2020 at 8:53 AM EST
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EAST BURKE, Vt. (WCAX) - As COVID numbers increase in Vermont and across the nation, organizations are now working to figure out how to grapple with an uncertain future.

One of the largest issues Vermont has seen in the wake of the pandemic is food insecurity.

But one Newport-based non-profit is partnering with the Vermont Everyone Eats program to make sure people in the Northeast Kingdom have good quality food.

Green Moutain Farm to School works to bring locally produced food to those who need it, especially schools. But most recently, food shelves and low-income families.

GMFTS is working with three restaurants in the Northeast Kingdom to get food insecure Vermonters fed, and money in the bank for struggling restaurants.

They’re doing it by using a chunk of the $5M given to Vermont through the CARES Act.

Restaurants are paid $10 back for each meal put out, as long as a certain percentage of it is sourced locally.

Three restaurants deliver meals to RuralEdge and the United Church of Newport Food Shelf.

Those restaurants include Auntie Deedee’s, the Mooselook Diner, and Newport Naturals Market.

“It’s really a win-win-win, a three-pillar kind of project where we’re benefitting restaurants by paying for those meals. We’re benefitting the food-insecure folks who have been affected by COVID, as well as our local economy through supporting farmers and local producers,” says Alida Farrell of GMFTS.

Auntie DeeDee’s is located in East Burke.

Owner Danielle Ekasala says her business has been always been a popular spot in town, but this year she’s struggling with the border closure and lack of tourism.

Despite that, she’s happy to be in the kitchen cooking for those in need.

Aside from the reimbursement, the appreciation goes a long way, too.

“It feels so amazing. And I just two days ago got a letter from a woman at the Darling Inn thanking me for her meals. And I swear it made me cry," Ekasala explains.

Auntie DeeDee’s is responsible for about 110 of the 350 meals distributed each week in the NEK.

The program was set to distribute 4,000 meals by the December 4th end date, but GMFTS tells WCAX they’ve just been cleared to extend the program to December 30th due to an extra million dollars in funding.

The non-profit is now looking to recruit the help of more restaurants in the area.

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