Farmers to Families food distribution contract extended

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BARRE, Vt. (WCAX) Vermonters have been lining up at food distribution sites for nearly two months, just trying to get by during the coronavirus pandemic.

An announcement by Vermont's congressional delegation says the giveaways will continue into August through the Farmers to Families program.

"There are tens of thousands of Vermonters who have lost their jobs and, in fact, are still losing their jobs even as others are going back to work. It's drastic loss in income that causes people to be food insecure," said John Sayles of the Vermont Foodbank.

The Abbey Group and Willing Hands secured an $8.5 million contract extension with the USDA to keep the program for two more months. They're partnering with the state and the Vermont Foodbank to get it distributed-- 266,000 boxes between now and August.

Sayles tells me food is one aspect that families will cut back on in hardship, so these programs are important.

"We're glad to have the food for all these people in Vermont who have lost their jobs or are otherwise struggling. It's great, good quality food. Some of it is even coming from Vermont farms and Vermont dairy, so we're very excited about that," Sayles said.

But families aren't the only ones hard hit by the pandemic; dairy farms and processors were dumping products after restaurants and schools closed, losing income.

"We lost a lot of our business overnight when UVM closed down pretty suddenly. That was a big chunk of the milk we put out," Abbey Thomas said.

Thomas Dairy worked hard to avoid dumping but was hit.

They were contacted by the Abbey Group about purchasing their products to distribute throughout the state.

"We're working together every day to make it happen, but yes, it's definitely been a godsend for us when we're able to use our excess milk to help other people in Vermont," Thomas said.

Securing payments for their products for at least two more months and helping Vermont families put food on the table.