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BRATTLEBORO — Food Connects, a non-profit Food Hub in Brattleboro, has formed new partnerships with schools across the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts.

Food Connects delivers source-identified foods to schools throughout the Connecticut River Valley. With a strong foothold in Vermont and New Hampshire, the organization has looked towards Massachusetts for ways to provide more value to school nutrition programs through regionally-grown and made foods.

In the 2021-2022 school year alone, Food Connects has delivered more than $30,000 in regional products to Massachusetts schools, from beef, pork, and chicken to granola, yogurt, and gelato.

Both public and private schools throughout Massachusetts are shifting to regionally sourced food.

Northfield Mount Hermon (NMH) is a private boarding school and one of the leaders in the local food movement. When D.L. Moody founded the girls’ and boys’ schools, the schools’ farms were at their core, feeding the student body. And though the farm isn’t the only source of food for the school, it is still a core part of its culture and heritage.

On May 6, NMH hosted its first Food Systems Teach-In since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. This was a day when the high school curriculum centered on food and food systems. And the classrooms weren’t the only thing full of food systems thinking — the dining hall menu for the day centered on regionally sourced foods.

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Food Connects offered many regional products from regional producers, including: Deep Root Organics, Frisky Cow Gelato, Hurricane Flats, Maine Grains, Red’s Best, Big Picture Beef, Boyden Beef, Vermont Bean Crafters, Czajkowski Farm, Old Friends Farm, and The Bread Shed.

Tom Brewton, Food Connects’ institutional sales associate, tabled at the event during lunch hours and was able to share with students and faculty about the regional products featured on the menu. Laura Carbonneau, Food Connects’ marketing and outreach manager and NMH alumnae, joined students in the classroom, speaking about the Farm Bill, climate resiliency, food, and food systems.

Deerfield Academy in Deerfield, Mass., is another boarding school for high school students in the Pioneer Valley. The school has a Farm Team, a group of students who help out at two local farms with harvesting and garlic preparation projects. Working with the school for the first time this school year, Food Connects has delivered various products, including strip loins from Big Picture Beef and burger patties from Robie Farm.

Eaglebrook School is a sixth through ninth grade all-boys boarding and day school in Deerfield. This year alone, the school has purchased 3,672 pounds of ground beef from both Big Picture Beef and Boyden Beef.

Food Connects is an entrepreneurial non-profit that delivers locally produced food as well as educational and consulting services aimed at transforming local food systems. The Food Hub aggregates and delivers from over 150 regional farms and food producers to over 150 buyers in southeast Vermont, southwest New Hampshire, and western Massachusetts.

If you are a food service director, work in a school, and would like to integrate more local foods into your menus, Food Connects wants to hear from you. At this time, customer routes go from Brattleboro, down I-91 as far south as Northampton, Mass. Contact sales@foodconnects.org.