1st-of-its kind program to help feed Muslims in Burlington area

Published: Nov. 17, 2022 at 5:12 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

COLCHESTER, Vt. (WCAX) - Muslim Vermonters now have the chance to access the food they need in an easy way. For the first time, the Vermont Foodbank is trying out a distribution of halal chicken in the Burlington area.

A small chicken farm in Colchester trying to fill a growing need here in the Green Mountain State.

Theogene Mahoro is an immigrant from Rwanda and has been farming at Mama Farm since 2012. He had the opportunity to take control of half of a community farm.

“Me, they give me the chicken and the garden,” Mahoro said.

He raises the chickens for their whole lives and is able to turn out between 4,000 and 5,000 a year. Mahoro also slaughters on site, getting his chicken into the community faster.

“Now they give me the ability to sell anywhere in market,” he said.

But Mahoro also offers a special service for the Muslim population in Vermont, filling a current gap. Halal meat follows Islamic law where a Muslim person kills the animal themselves by hand.

“For the Muslim people, if a Muslim person comes and buys a chicken, he can kill it himself, and after, I can clean it for him,” Mahoro explained.

This halal chicken distribution in Burlington is funded through the USDA local food purchase assistance and is a first of its kind.

“There is a really growing need for halal meat, all different sorts of proteins in Vermont,” said Julia Scheier, who handles emerging issues at the Vermont Agency of Agriculture.

The state estimates we have about 5,000 Muslims who call Vermont home. Scheier says their needs can’t be forgotten.

“It needs to work for folks’ logistics, for their cultural standards and to be able to really know where their food is coming from, to even be on the land or even see the animals beforehand so they can trust it,” Scheier said.

Chickens like Mahoro’s are there to help fill the community’s needs, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.

“We have a huge bottleneck right now and very, very limited capacity for halal slaughter and processing,” Scheier said.

It’s a gap Mahoro is directly trying to fill, but for him, he just loves the ability to feed his community.

“Now they have got the meat, they are so happy for me-- yeah,” he said.