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Fresh farm products being distributed to families in need

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PERU — The Vermont National Guard will be distributing free food boxes at Bromley Mountain on Tuesday, part of a federal program that aims to alleviate hunger during the pandemic.

Besides receiving nonperishable items, households will also get fresh farm products such as milk, chicken meat, assorted vegetables, cheese and butter. Called Farmers to Families Food Box Program, the distributions seek to also help local farmers who have lost revenue when their client businesses closed or down-scaled because of social-distancing guidelines.

The program connects distributors with local farmers "who would have been selling their foods to restaurants and bulk purchasers," according to the Vermont Foodbank, one of the in-state organizers.

The distributors then put together food boxes that local contractors will give to people in need. Funding is provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which unveiled the program in April.

When asked which Bennington County farmers are participating, local contractor Abbey Group said it's still in the process of connecting with farmers here.

Partners are "coordinating with local farms to secure produce for this program," Abbey Underwood, Abbey Group's vice president of marketing, said Friday. "Though there isn't much local produce in these boxes yet, as more become available as the season continues, we will drastically expand the amount available for distribution."

The Group is preparing food for around 1,000 families in each designated location, Underwood said.

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The Vermont distribution started with Berlin on Friday, and is scheduled to run through at least June, according to the Foodbank. The distribution at Bromley Mountain, located at 3984 Route 11 in Peru, will go from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Anyone is welcome to pick up food, the organizers said, though they're asking people who are sick or have been advised to self-isolate to instead send a friend or relative.

People who come should pull up to the designated area, indicate how many individuals they're picking up food for, and Guardsmen will load the appropriate number of boxes in their trunk. The National Guard is asking participants not to bring their pets.

Underwood is reminding people to wear a mask and to observe social-distancing guidelines.

Distributions are also lined up in Middlebury, Thetford, Morristown, Burlington, Brattleboro, Swanton and Lyndonville. The latest schedule, as well as any additional distribution sites, will be posted on the Foodbank website.

In a recent study, the University of Vermont estimated that food insecurity has risen 33 percent because of the coronavirus pandemic. School closures, rising unemployment and growing poverty have put unprecedented stress on families' food budgets, the Foodbank said.

Contact Tiffany Tan at ttan@benningtonbanner.com or @tiffgtan on Facebook and Twitter.


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