Living in Vermont is truly a special privilege and has many inherent lessons that set it apart from most other states. One of these lessons is the unconditional degree of sharing that Vermonters are willing to extend to their neighbors who are in need of their help. Such lessons are confirmed by the fact that no other state has as many non profit organizations dedicated to helping each other than Vermont. Call it a grassroots roll up our sleeves attitude, but we have lived by the term “Git-R-Done” way before Larry the cable guy was even born.
I would like to propose a scenario to you the next time you sit down to enjoy a meal. Have you ever wondered how many of your neighbors have the opportunity to enjoy a similar meal? A visit to the Vermont Food Bank’s web site will offer very detailed statistics that on average 20% of our neighbors are living with “food insecurity”. In layman’s terms, these neighbors routinely have to choose between purchasing food and paying for housing, utilities, medical expenses, etc. That’s a pretty significant number, and as was described in the first paragraph, is something Vermonters don’t take lightly and will work toward finding a solution.
Vermont is to be credited with its environmental protection and thanks to the generosity of our farmers, “food insecurity”, is being reduced. Vermont farms report they will typically have surpluses with every crop they produce. The tricky part is how do we convert this surplus into the homes of 20% of our neighbors in need. I say tricky because the faster this surplus is converted into meals, the greater the nutritional value of the meal is realized.
The Grateful Hearts, Inc. were formed by a couple of loyal Grateful Dead fans, Jeff Scott, Executive Chef @ the West Mountain Inn, and myself, who on too many occasions had a tough time enjoying our daily meals. Jeff and I organized a large following of “Hearts” and started coordinating the conversion of surplus farm produce into ready - made meals that are distributed at our local food pantries and cupboards. After 5 years, and thousands of meals going into the homes of our neighbors, we are very excited to have the opportunity to form new Grateful Hearts Chapters throughout Vermont. We are able to accomplish this primarily by partnering with our local Technical and Career Culinary Schools. This partnering was originally proposed by RAFFL in Rutland, and thanks to the Stafford Technical School, we have expanded from Bennington County into Rutland County. The Culinary School @ the Career Development Center in Bennington has also been producing meals and we are currently discussing a similar partnership with Burr and Burton in Manchester. The Grateful Hearts could not have partnered with better schools that are supervised by Chef Lisa Fennimore and Chef Greg Lynch @ Stafford, and Chef Jaime-Lynn Schmidt @ the Career Development Center; along with the Twilight Program @ Mount Anthony Union High School. There are many beneficiaries to the efforts of the Grateful Hearts, most notably our neighbors in need. There are far greater beneficiaries than our neighbors in need however, and those are all of the young students who have embraced this mission with such dedication and exuberance as only their youthful energies can. These students are learning a much greater character trait than their culinary skills. They are learning there is no tolerance to sitting idle while their neighbors experience hunger, and to a greater extent, the pride of calling oneself a Vermonter!
Grateful Hearts, Inc.
Local food for local hunger.