Emergency Eats Provides Restaurant Meals to Flood-Impacted Vermonters | Economy | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Emergency Eats Provides Restaurant Meals to Flood-Impacted Vermonters


Published August 10, 2023 at 4:41 p.m.
Updated August 31, 2023 at 3:21 p.m.

Prepared restaurant meals - COURTESY OF SEVCA
  • Courtesy of SEVCA
  • Prepared restaurant meals
A pandemic-era program that provided prepared meals to food-insecure Vermonters and boosted local restaurants' bottom line is being reincarnated in flood-impacted parts of the state.

Vermont Emergency Eats, a 30-day program which launched on Monday, is a smaller-scale version of Vermont Everyone Eats, a $49 million, federally funded initiative that paid hundreds of local restaurants to make meals for those who needed food assistance during the pandemic. Between August 2020 and March 2023, more than 320 Vermont eateries distributed almost four million meals. Restaurants were paid $10 per meal and required to use at least 10 percent local ingredients, so area farmers and food producers also benefited.
Southeastern Vermont Community Action, an anti-poverty agency that serves Windham and Windsor counties, is using its experience administering Everyone Eats to get the new iteration of the program up and running, program coordinator Amanda Witman said.

When Everyone Eats wound down in early spring, Witman said, she and others on a state Mass Feeding Task Force began talking about how the program could be used as a model for future emergencies, Witman said.

"Then, an actual disaster struck," Witman said. "We hadn't thought we would have to run it quite so soon."

  • Courtesy of SEVCA
Several weeks after the flooding, Southeastern Vermont Community Action finalized a contract with the state's Agency of Commerce and Community Development to launch the program, which will serve up to 3,000 restaurant meals a day to Vermonters who live in one of the nine counties included in the federal disaster declaration and who have lost access to food due to flooding. That includes people whose homes have been damaged or who are experiencing utility disruptions, those who have lost jobs, and those who have lost access to home-delivered or congregant meals.

Southeastern Vermont Community Action is partnering with five community-based organizations in the affected counties, which are enlisting restaurants to participate. Just as with Everyone Eats, restaurants will be paid $10 per meal. Meals will be handed out at central distribution sites or, in some cases, at the restaurants themselves with a paper or electronic voucher.

Witman said in addition to helping food-insecure Vermonters, the program is also intended to support restaurants who have lost business due to flooding. Participating restaurants are not required to use at least 10 percent local ingredients in meals because of the flooding's impact to farms, but they must track and report how much local food they use.

Meals will be distributed through September 5, but an extension might be considered if there is still need in some communities, Witman said.

For more information about qualification criteria and where to find meals, visit vtemergencyeats.org.

Correction, August 10, 2023: A previous version of this story misspelled
Amanda Witman's name.

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