By Manfred Rieder
Katherine Sims is the wife of my friend Jeff Fellinger. She is also the founder and executive director the the Green Mountain Farm-to-School project. At the last Vermont election she ran for a seat at the state house but narrowly lost. Will she run again" "Yes I shall", she told us yesterday, May 20. "But not for a while because I have to focus all of my energy on the Farm-to-School program and right now this is where I can make a difference and do some good". this might not be a direct quote but it encompasses the gist of our conversation and it embraces all that this young woman is all about.
She is only 32 years old, a Yale graduate and she started the Farm-to-School project six years ago at an age when a lot of people would worry more about spring break than the common good that can be accomplished by a single determined person.
When she started they had one school and one garden, now there are 28. Acting as brokers for farms throughout the Northeast Kingdom, the project now delivers food to more than 90 customers which encompass schools, hospitals, the State prison systems and senior meal sites.Sims and her elves contact participating farms every week to find out what produce, meats or vegetables are available. The project partners with a local warehousing and distribution company, DNS distributing, to gather and deliver the food. Four trucks are in constant use.
12,500 tons of food have been delivered - a staggering number considering that this grass-roots organization is working on limited funding albeit there are state and federal grants allocated but a lot of work is done by local volunteers.
I asked Katherine is there is anything she would like to see in this little story and she told me to give the phone number: 334-2044 so any person of any age who would like to volunteer for the program may contact them. Right now what they need is people who can help with weeding, harvesting and assistance with educational programs that are evolving as the organization grows. "Right now we have about ten percent of the schools in our program and we would like to grow that number" asserts Mrs Sims.
A recently published brochure summarizes the mission of the Farm-to-School project; "By delivering local foods to schools and institutions, we can make healthy food accessible and affordable for all while simultaneously supporting the local economy."
In the 2012 to 2013 school year the group sponsored and conducted 29 field trips for students to local farms, planted 25 new school gardens, produced 3,938 pounds of food for school cafeterias and involved 5,316 students in the planting of the gardens. They also held 519 in-class workshops and instituted 324 after-school programs.
Now, the newest development is the "Lunchbox", a mobile farmer's market and commercial kitchen that brings locally grown food and food-based education to communities in Northern Vermont. Here we quote from their pamphlet: "The market's mission is to improve fresh food access, provide a reliable outlet for new and small-scale growers and value-added producers, and to create a gathering place for community activities and meals." The market also offers free meals to all children under the age of 18. The three main centers for the "Lunchbox", a large Freightliner truck, staffed by a chef, an intern and an educator, are Newport, Barton and Island Pond.
There will be a big Block Party in Newport's Gardner Park in June to launch this year's "Lunchbox" program in June. For more information about Green Mountain Farm-to-School you may go to their site at: