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VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

Harrington: Good Grilled

Many fine gourmet food carts grace Vermont 's downtowns, but most of them take a break this time of year.

However, there's one food cart -- indoors at the University of Vermont -- that's active September through May. FeelGood Grilled Cheese offers a tasty, localvore sandwich -- and a worthy cause to support.

The “feel good” part is both in the local ingredients, prepared by energetic students -- and in their mission, which is “Ending world hunger, one grilled cheese at a time.”

All profits from the little deli go to The Hunger Project, which operates in 11 countries in Africa, South Asia, and Latin America. FeelGood Vice President Ali White, an environmental studies major, says that The Hunger Project “is a partnership, not charity,” and that their work emphasizes gender equity as well.

FeelGood Grilled Cheese is located on the lowest level of the UVM Davis Center, in a hallway at the entrance to the Main Street tunnel. The aroma of grilling cheese and vegetables, and often the sound of dance music, brings customers to the spot.

There are six different sandwiches to choose from -- all on bread from either the Klinger’s or Red Hen bakeries. My favorite is the Shelburne with mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, and peppers -- besides the local bread and cheese. The Cheese Louise features apples and honey mustard.

As with the bread, many ingredients come from local donors or partners, including Shelburne Farms, Bella Pesto, Annie’s BBQ, and Green Jam Man.

For a little cart in a windowless area near a tunnel, FeelGood Grilled Cheese is very festive. A colorful mural proclaims their mission, and volunteers sometimes dance to the music as they work. If a purchase helps them meet a particular fundraising goal, everybody celebrates.

Sandwiches are assembled to order, then grilled in a sandwich press to melt the cheese. The result is a warm, affordable lunch, wrapped in foil, ready to eat -- and with an added benefit.

FeelGood began at the University of Texas in Austin in 2005, but UVM actually has the longest running chapter of 26 in the United States. There are also chapters in Paris and the Philippines. They all have the same motto and mission.

During the fall semester, UVM's FeelGooders, as they're called, raised $18,000 for The Hunger Project. Their annual goal is $36,000. Sixty students are involved in this effort. Besides making sandwiches, they recruit local food donors, pick up the ingredients, and partner with other organizations.

They also host “A Week in Their Shoes” each semester, with activities that range from trying to eat on one dollar a day -- as people in Third World countries often do -- and going without technology, to a day of silence in honor of women without voices around the world.

The FeelGood Grilled Cheese cart at the Davis Center offers good food for a good cause on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays -- whenever UVM is in session.

The late Elaine Keen Harrington of Middlesex was a lecturer in the English Department at the University of Vermont. A former editor for the Rutland Herald and Times Argus, she also owned a fiber arts business.
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