Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.  

The high cost of food has become a common topic of conversation across the country over the past year or so. Almost everyone can easily chime in on the topic with lived experience around the rapid increase in the price of household food staples. For individuals, the impact is directly felt. For organizations like Foodworks, the effect of the inflation of food costs imposes a compounding negative effect. At a time when Foodworks is experiencing record utilization, it is also experiencing greatly increased per-unit costs to keep the shelves stocked.

Foodworks is an entirely free, local grocery store operated by Groundworks Collaborative. It is designed as a neighborhood grocery store where everything is available at no cost and shoppers can access what they need and avoid taking items they don’t want or won’t use, which can sometimes be the case with “food shelves” or emergency food distribution sites.

In the past year, Foodworks has fulfilled more than 18,000 two-week supplies of groceries for area households, representing a 40 percent increase in combined in-person shopping, curbside pickup, and deliveries since the beginning of 2022. Since our reopening in June 2022 for in-person shopping, we have experienced new record-high utilization days every month, culminating with 68 households shopping with us on the last Friday of October.

The stories are predictable. Food costs are higher, housing is unaffordable, utility costs are rising, and wages are not keeping up with these expenses that all households are facing. It’s easy to identify why more and more households are looking for supplemental food resources today than a year ago.

Such a rapid increase in need for supplemental food resources presents one challenge. Addressing this need in a time when the costs to procure food to meet that need have also skyrocketed is a one-two punch that is presenting a real stress-test to programs like Foodworks.

Groundworks Collaborative has four staff dedicated to Foodworks, which is always humming behind the scenes even when the storefront isn’t open for shopping. When Foodworks is not open, our team is out gleaning food for redistribution: either rescuing perfectly good food from local grocery and convenience stores before it can go to waste, or picking up the palettes of items we purchase as a member of the Vermont Foodbank.

Support our journalism. Subscribe today. →

Because of all the discounts and purchasing power we have at the Vermont Foodbank and with all of the donations we leverage, Foodworks is able to feed a lot of people for pennies on the dollar compared to what you and I would pay at the grocery store. Monetary donations truly stretch to meet incredible need — just $25 allows us to provide a two-week supply of supplemental groceries for a family of five.

As we enter this holiday season, I would like to encourage anyone looking for a way to help out to support your local food shelf program. The 2022 Project Feed the Thousands campaign — our community’s annual comprehensive food drive supporting nine local food shelves — is underway. At Foodworks, we are leveraging every donation and putting every dollar to really good use—and we can use all the help we can get.

Donate to Project Feed at: gofundme.com/f/Project-Feed-The-Thousands-2022

Or mail a check payable to Project Feed to: Project Feed the Thousands, c/o 802 Credit Union, PO Box 8366, Brattleboro, VT 05304.

Donate to Foodworks directly at: GroundworksVT.org/donate or mail a check payable to Groundworks Collaborative with “Foodworks” in the memo to: Groundworks Collaborative, Attn: Development Office, PO Box 370, Brattleboro, VT 05301.

Thank you for your support and happy holidays.

Andrew Courtney is director of Foodworks at Groundworks Collaborative in Brattleboro.