After more than 40 years in operation, Community Action Brattleboro Area (CABA) has voted to officially cease operations. The funds remaining in the organization's name have been donated to Food Connects to support that organization's work cultivating farm and food connections in schools and communities in and around Windham County.
"We are truly honored to be given the opportunity to carry on the legacy of CABA's work to create opportunities for empowerment and self-sufficiency," said Richard Berkfield, cofounder and executive director of Food Connects.
CABA closes its doors having provided a wide range of services in Brattleboro and surrounding communities since its founding in 1968. The organization's programs varied according to community needs, but included a food shelf, thrift store, budgeting education, emergency oil assistance, housing assistance, a community garden, cooking classes, and assistance to women in need.
"Everything we did was about empowerment," noted Barbara Cain, a CABA board member and long-time volunteer. "You dealt with the crisis, then helped people get to a point where they could survive."
Several CABA programs spun off into independent nonprofits. The annual Halloween parade in Brattleboro, for example, was started by CABA in the late 1970s. Cain says the organization expected 20 people to show up the first year, but the parade drew 300 people in costumes. The parade is now run by the town of Brattleboro.
Similarly, a former volunteer for CABA, Julie Peterson, went on to create the Women's Crisis Center, which serves women in need. Other services formerly offered by CABA have been replaced with state-provided services, food pantries, soup kitchens, and other organizations.
A leader in the Farm to School movement in Vermont, Food Connects affects one million school meals annually in a region in which one in four children experiences food insecurity. The organization works closely with food service professionals, teachers, and school families to integrate local foods into the cafeteria, educate students about healthy eating habits, and embed farm to school activities into the school and community culture. Additionally, Food Connects manages Windham Farm and Food, a local food aggregation and distribution food hub, connecting 30 local producers with 50 institutional buyers.
Food Connects continues to grow, having expanded its reach from 9 to 30 schools in the past year. A new refrigerated truck allows Windham Farm and Food to deliver more food to more schools on more days of the week. The organization's School Harvest Farm will be expanding its offerings to school and retail buyers for the 2016 growing season.