BRATTLEBORO -- It wasn't too hard for Vermont Foodbank Southern Region Director Maurice Casey to point out, while walking through the foodbank warehouse Friday, equipment he has been able to purchase with U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development money.
USDA staff members were there to deliver another $26,700 to the Brattleboro foodbank, which serves thousands of people in Windham, Windsor and Bennington counties.
Casey showed off used office furniture he was able to buy with former grants. He pointed to shelving, refrigerators and vehicles, all of which the foodbank was able to purchase by leveraging local donations with the federal money, which Casey said has helped support the foodbank even before the doors opened in the new warehouse in the former Book Press building on Putney Road.
"You guys helped us out a lot, the whole time we have been here," Casey told USDA Rural Development Vermont and New Hampshire State Director Ted Brady. "All the way from phase one, when we started construction, at every level you have helped us help those who need our help."
Brady delivered two grants to the food bank Friday.
"The Vermont Foodbank has demonstrated its ability and dedication to combating hunger throughout the state and USDA is eager to partner with them in their efforts to enhance assistance in the southern region," Brady said. "USDA is seeking solutions to combat hunger and food insecurity, especially through innovative approaches that match local food systems with hunger fighting nonprofits. Vermont Foodbank is a leader in this arena."
Brady delivered an $8,500 grant which is going to help the foodbank buy a new vehicle, and a second $18,200 grant which will go toward upgrading shelving in the Brattleboro warehouse.
The two grants that were delivered Friday were made possible by USDA Rural Development's Community Facilities Loan and Grant Program which serves nonprofits and public organizations in service areas of up to 20,000 people.
"These grants are gong to help the foodbank meet their mission," Brady said. "It will help them do what they need to do to help fight hunger here in southern Vermont."
The Vermont Foodbank has received nearly $50,000 in USDA Rural Development grant funding in 2013 to combat hunger from its Brattleboro and Rutland locations.
USDA Area Director Jon-Michael Muise said every USDA dollar that comes into the foodbank, as well as each matching donation, helps the foodbank be more efficient, and put more of its own resources into feeding hungry people.
"It's not about the money or the cooler," Muise said. "It's what the cooler does."
The Vermont Foodbank opened its southern 21,000 square foot warehouse in 2009.
The foodbank takes in large pallets of donated food from stores and wholesale distributors and redistributes to food shelves and soup kitchens around southeastern Vermont.
Before the Brattleboro warehouse opened about 1 million pounds were distributed in the region every year and the foodbank now takes in a distributes about 2.3 million pounds annually.
"The money we're announcing today allows the foodbank to send their money where it should be," Brady said. "It lets the foodbank take its money that would have been spent on racking, or on cars, and fight food insecurity."