COVID-era food security program revived for flood impacted Vermonters
A COVID-era food security program is being revived for victims of the state’s historic flooding.
The state gave out almost 4 million restaurant meals during the pandemic through the Everyone Eats program.
Amanda Witman managed Everyone Eats and said food security advocates recognized the program’s success.
“There were conversations underway to plan for how to implement a similar program in a future disaster. And then an actual disaster struck with the flooding the happened on July 10," Witman said.
The new program is called Vermont Emergency Eats, and anyone in one of the nine federally recognized major disaster areas can qualify for free prepared meals.
Witman said the program is based on Everyone Eats, but it will likely only run for 30 days, and the state is covering the costs.
FEMA paid for most of the Everyone Eats program.
“We have never done this before,” said Witman. “We’re taking the Vermont Everyone Eats model, and we’re adapting it to a short term emergency response.”
Witman says organizers have been scrambling around the state to get the program set up, recognizing the need right now to get prepared food out to people who have been affected by the flooding.
“Anybody whose access to food has been impacted in some way by the recent flooding will qualify for a meal through Vermont Emergency Eats,” Witman said. “So it could be that they’re place of work was flooded and they have lost income and that has impacted their food security. Or it could be that their home was flooded and their kitchen is not safe to make meals in at this point. Or maybe they’re someone who’s used to getting a meal once a week through a local congregant meal, for seniors maybe, and the kitchen that normally produced those meals was flooded or is inaccessible. So there are lots of elements to eligibility, and we want to make sure everyone who needs a meal because of the flooding gets one.”
The program is being run through five sites until Sept. 5, among the nine counties, with each site operating under different schedules and distribution guidelines.
People can generally pick up one meal a day, but some sites will hand out a few days' worth of food.
Some regions are distributing coupons which can be used in restaurants, while others are collecting meals at restaurants and distributing them from sites in the region.
Witman says there’s a website, vtemergencyeats.org, and people can call 211 for more information.
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