program offers Farmstand gift cards to food-insecure Vermont residents | Food News | Seven days
When Meaghin Kennedy and Justin Reidy moved from Oregon to Charlotte, Vermont in March 2019, they immediately embraced community-supported farm action.
The couple enjoy taking their two young children for the family’s weekly share of vegetables and visiting local farms to buy fresh eggs or winter squash. They chose Vermont in part because the distance from farm to plate is so short and “farming permeates the culture,” Reidy said.
But Kennedy and Reidy soon realized that what was available to them was not equally available to all their neighbors – and decided to do something to help them. The result is Farm standing togetherwhich will launch a pilot project this summer offering on-farm gift cards of at least $50 to up to 200 food-insecure Vermont households.
“There’s almost this idea that if you’re hungry you should take what you can get. Healthy eating is considered a privilege,” Reidy said. “The premium must be shared with the people who need it. Their own neighbors might grow it.
Farm Stand Together combines Kennedy’s experience working for farms in Portland and in the Washington, DC, farm-to-school movement with her husband’s tech start-up background. During the pandemic, they noticed that the high demand for local foods prompted many farms to build and expand farms and equip them with self-service electronic point-of-sale systems that readily accept gift cards.
Although Reidy noted that there are several programs that help cover the cost of local food for low-income Vermonters, he and his wife wanted to try a new option that was as convenient and simple as possible for shoppers and farmers. All people are eligible, and Farm Stand Together’s short and self-qualifying online survey includes a place to list favorite local farms.
Gift card recipients will use them like a credit card to “shop like everyone else, without stigma or limitation,” Reidy said. The couple will pay for the gift cards and fund the pilot themselves.
They consulted with the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont to design the program and spread the word. Bugbee Senior Center in White River Junction highlighted the opportunity in a recent email newsletter.
“Shopping local for small businesses is so important, but it’s not always easy or affordable,” said Alec Strver, the center’s administrator. “Farm Stand Together makes it easy and will encourage people to come to their local farm.”
Farm Stand Together will be accepting applications through March and sending out gift cards by the end of May. When pilot results are available, Reidy hopes to leverage his technology network.
“We could pitch it to Square or another point-of-sale company to sponsor,” he suggested.
NOFA-VT Executive Director Grace Oedel described Farm Stand Together as a win-win for Vermonters and limited-income farmers.
“Farms are a critical direct market for many Vermont farms,” she said. “We love to see projects like this spring up spontaneously from community members.”