Everyone Eats, local collaboration in response to Covid-19 pandemic

Jamaican Jewels food truck parked every Friday in Bellows Falls, a provider in the Everyone Eats Program.
Jamaican Jewels food truck parked every Friday in Bellows Falls, a provider in the Everyone Eats Program. Photo by Bill Lockwood

BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – The recently passed federal Cares Act included a number of relief programs for small businesses and individuals that have been hurt by the current Covid-19 pandemic. As the Rockingham and Bellows Falls area response has been a collaboration of resources so too is the administration and deployment of the Everyone Eats program that locally extends out to an area much wider that Rockingham itself.

With this program, local restaurants are paid to use mostly local food resources and provide free meals for those in need. Gary Fox, Rockingham development director, and one of the partners says, “It’s a win in three big ways; local restaurants and meal producers get to produce more meals and get paid for them, farmers and food producers get more sales, and those in need get food assistance.”

Restaurants get $10 per meal and use at least 10% ingredients from local producers. The meals are picked up by volunteers and taken to distribution points where qualifying families pick up one meal per family member per day.

Fox names Grafton’s MKT and Bellows Falls Leslie’s Tavern restaurants, Smokin’ Bowls and Jamaican Jewels food trucks, and Allen Brothers Farm Stand as signed up so far. John and Leslie Marston of Leslie’s Tavern say, “We started making meals in April on a bi-weekly basis knowing that there had to be a need. The thought then and now is the horrible thought of people going hungry. We are proud to be a part of the program.”

Samantha Maskell at Rockingham Free Public Library is the lead person for signing people up. She says right now they have 58 households with 175 individuals signed up. They expect to be serving 250 individuals in the next four weeks with a possible jump to 500 after school starts. She says, “I believe in this program. Throughout Vermont, restaurants, food producers, and local economies are getting some much needed help. I learned that there are several restaurants being saved by this program, and we are feeding our communities! This is a win-win.”

Rockingham Help and Helpers are coordinating the delivery of the meals. Lynn Parker Haas reports that volunteers began with transporting 40 meals from Jamaican Jewels to the Our Place Drop-in Center for pick up and then 60 meals their next delivery. MKT: Grafton will be next with their meals going to the Grafton Church for recipients in Athens and Grafton.

Being a federal program, there is a bureaucratic aspect. Fox says restaurants must have been paying meals and room taxes to show that they are legitimate, and recipients must declare that they have had difficulty getting meals post-Covid. And Fox notes that SEVCA is the local fiscal agent and Chester Helping Hands is handling all the paperwork and payments for an area extending as far away as Ludlow.

Those wishing to join the program can fill out an Everyone Eats form online at www.rockinghamlibrary.org or call the library at 802-463-4270. For further information, contact Sam at sam@rockinghamlibrary.org.

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