Vermont is one of the healthiest states in the country—not to mention a leader in organic farming, blue-ribbon cheeses, community-supported agriculture, chef-driven restaurants, and world-famous craft beer. It is an abundance of riches. And yet, this abundance highlights a disheartening division among Vermonters—a foodie class-system for the modern age.
As many of us embrace the foodie culture in Vermont, we unwittingly celebrate the high-cost and elite status that come with it. The more we embrace it, the more we make a public statement about our ability to access this culture.
But often in the same towns we live in, there exists a growing population of families who are “food-insecure”—families who cannot afford basic food on a regular basis. Recent studies indicate that 19,000 residents of Chittenden County are food insecure. The number is particularly eye-opening when you realize the population of Chittenden County is just under 160,000. Nationally, food insecurity rates are higher for rural households when compared to national averages. Bottom line: it’s a growing and challenging problem in Vermont.
It can appear from the outside, that the distance between these two groups is quite far. Foodies revel in what’s new, what’s innovative, and what’s unexpected. For breakfast, we fawn over banana bread, handmade with fair trade organic bananas, and served with hand-whipped currant cream cheese; meanwhile, many neighbors struggle to put milk and cereal on the breakfast table.
The disparity can be discouraging—and even embarrassing in some cases. The question is: how can we minimize this gap? Is there a way we can still enjoy local, organic food and take steps to help our neighbors?
The answer is: Yes.
Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf came to us with the beginning of an idea that would do exactly that—bridge the gap. They were awarded a grant to pay for a food truck. But this food truck would perform double-duty. It would serve local, fresh, and organic food to members of Vermont’s foodie culture. And the money taken in would be used to cook and deliver healthy, prepared meals to many food-insecure Vermonters. When we first heard the pitch, we were all in. In fact, we dedicated virtually our entire agency to the effort. We didn’t ask for any money in return. All we requested was the creative freedom to do the kind of work we enjoy.
We developed a marketing strategy, created the name, designed the logo, created the truck graphics, conceived and built a website, designed staff t-shirts, and created a set of marketing materials. And we did all that in a little less than two months.
The Good Food Truck helped us bridge the gap between our love of food and helping those who need food. In fact, we did more than bridge the gap. We built a bridge over that gap and watched the Good Food Truck roll right over it.