Brattleboro Co-op "Bags to Beans" program benefits local charities


BRATTLEBORO >> Jack Spriggins sold his wizened cow for magic beans and got a beanstalk, but at the Co-op shoppers convert their beans into money for local charities

Since September 2014, $9,500 has been donated to local organizations through The Brattleboro Food Coop's"Bag a Bean for Brattleboro" program.

If customers bring their own reusable container or bag for their groceries instead of using bags that the Co-op provides, they have a choice between a five cent reduction from their bill or receiving a bean for each bag or container that they use to shop. These beans are placed in any of three different containers next to the exit. The containers are large water-cooler bottles, clearly marked with the names of three different local charity or non-governmental organizations.

"To me, the big news is it's helpful to donate to a plethora of organizations because there's so much need in the community," said Jon Megas-russell who serves as the Community Relations and Marketing person at the Brattleboro Food Coop. "The Co-op is doing a ton of outreach, we're working with them in a monetary donations, but it's kind of a full picture of outreach."

Currently the three organizations that are featured are The Bowers Fund; Green Mountain Camp for Girls and The Inclusion Center. The Bowers Fund gives grants for the training and education of food co-op staff, managers, and board members; the Green Mountain Camp for Girls is a Vermont summer camp for girls and the Inclusion Center is a no-fee program for all people who have disabilities whether mental or physical as well as those suffering from anxiety or depression and for anyone interested in joining the activities held there.

Every six to eight weeks the staff cycles in three different organizations for people to donate their beans toward. Each bean is worth five cents and some organizations have been recipients to the Bag a Bean for Brattleboro Program more than once, such as the River Gallery School as well as the Drop-In Center/Groundworks.

According to the River Gallery School's website, their mission is to"provide a studio space in which students of all ages explore their creativity through the practice of making art." As for Groundwork's website, they provide "ongoing support to families and individuals facing housing and food insecurities in the greater Brattleboro, Vermont area."

"This is a real community service that the Co-op is providing and it entails quite some administrative effort at their end," said BFC Shareholder, Carmen Berelson in an email. "I think awareness about this program should be spread more widely, so it can become even more successful."

Berelson visited a store in California where she found that they had an interesting system, for every bag a shopper brought in to save the use of a paper bag at the checkout counter, they received a token that they contributed to a jar assigned to a local non-profit. Berelson brought the idea back to Brattleboro, thinking it would be something for the Co-op to adopt. It has since been adopted and Megas-russell predicts that when The Bowers Fund; Green Mountain Camp for Girls and The Inclusion Center cycle out, the co-op will have raised $10,000 through their Bag a Bean for Brattleboro program.

According to Megas-Russell, since 2014, Bag a Bean for Brattleboro has donated to about 24 local charities and NGO's and has about 20 others on a waiting list. In 2014, shareholders would vote on organizations that they wanted us to donate toward, but not that they have seen such a high demand in the community they've allowed local organizations to reach out to them.

"The cool part is that kids get involved, it's education," said Megas-Russell. "It's important whether you're two or 80 to understand the impact and parents explain to their kids, why that savings can be donated to an organization."

Megas-Russel says one of their goals is to engage with kids, but also to grow and serve the community's needs.

"With VY (Vermont Yankee) gone, I think we can step in and make a deep impact. We need local organizations stepping in," said Megas-Russell. "This is our goal: to be an affordable not only grocery store but community partner. "

Maddi Shaw can be reached at 802-254-2311 ext 275


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