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Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Magic Hat Brewing Is Leaving Vermont; Zero Gravity Will Expand

Posted By on Tue, Jun 16, 2020 at 5:47 PM

The Magic Hat taproom - FILE: SALLY POLLAK
  • File: Sally Pollak
  • The Magic Hat taproom
One of Vermont’s oldest craft breweries is leaving the state.

Magic Hat Brewing will shift production from its South Burlington digs to a Rochester, N.Y., brewery owned by its parent company, FIFCO USA. As part of the move, nearby Zero Gravity Craft Brewery will buy Magic Hat’s equipment and take over its leased space on Bartlett Bay Road.

Magic Hat’s 43 brewing and operations employees in Vermont will lose their jobs but will be considered for open positions with Zero Gravity, FIFCO said in a press release Tuesday. The deal is expected to close on July 1.

“With the capabilities and capacity of our new brewery and the evolution of Magic Hat, moving the production to Rochester provided the best long term opportunity,” FIFCO CEO Rich Andrews said in a statement. “We have been brewing a portion of Magic Hat in Rochester for nearly a decade. Having one brewery with new equipment, creates consistent, high quality beer that our Magic Hat consumers have come to expect.”

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Thursday, June 4, 2020

Little Free Pantries Pop Up in Burlington Neighborhoods

Posted By on Thu, Jun 4, 2020 at 12:20 PM

A little free pantry on Loomis Street in Burlington - SALLY POLLAK
  • Sally Pollak
  • A little free pantry on Loomis Street in Burlington
On upper Loomis Street in Burlington, in front of a big, pink-flowering rhododendron, is a little food pantry stocked with spaghetti sauce, soup, pasta, canned chili, baby food, peanut butter, chocolate almond milk, and other nonperishable items.

A sign on the front-yard food stand reads: "Little Free Pantry / Take what you need. Share when you can."

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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Burlington Street Becomes Food Distribution Site

Posted By on Tue, May 26, 2020 at 3:40 PM

A guardsman loading food into a pickup truck Tuesday in Burlington - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • A guardsman loading food into a pickup truck Tuesday in Burlington
A Burlington builder flashed a V sign out the window of his Ram 2500 as he steered his pickup under an overpass on the Beltline on Tuesday morning. His victory was being No. 1 in a long  line of cars at a food distribution site in Burlington’s New North End.

The man, who declined to give his name, arrived at 4:30 in the morning, before the sun came up. Three lanes of cars fanned out behind him, filled with Vermonters waiting in the sunshine to receive cases of government-supplied food.

“There’s uncertainty, and we don’t know how long this will go on,” said the man, a father of four, adding that his work is slow. “I’m here for basic needs.”
The food giveaway in Burlington, the first in Vermont’s largest city, was one of several such events that have been held around the state in the past month.

Organized by the Vermont Foodbank in collaboration with the Vermont National Guard and the state’s Emergency Operations Center, the distributions aim to address a steep rise in food insecurity due to job losses and the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Feeding America, a national hunger-relief group, estimates the number of food-insecure people in Vermont is up by 46 percent, and the number of food-insecure children is up 60 percent, according to the Vermont Foodbank.

In Burlington, roughly 550 cars moved through the line at a rate of about 120 cars an hour, according to organizers. Some people got food for themselves and family members. Others came to assist people who don’t have cars or were otherwise unable to access the food.

A Colchester woman who lost her job in the registration department at the University of Vermont Medical Center said it was the first time she has needed help getting food.

“I don’t get any other assistance,” the 56-year-old said. “So this helps.”

Patricia Mallette, 66, traveled from North Clarendon with her 16-week-old puppy, Molly. The 70-mile trip was minor compared with the 1,475 miles she drove each way, two weeks ago, to pick up her dog.

Patricia Mallette of North Clarendon and her puppy, Molly - SALLY POLLAK
  • Sally Pollak
  • Patricia Mallette of North Clarendon and her puppy, Molly
“We are food short,” Mallette said. “My stepdaughter hasn’t gotten unemployment [benefits] in eight weeks, and they are starving.”

A Shelburne mother of three, driving a Volvo station wagon, arrived at the thoroughfare at 5 a.m. Her family is in the construction business and is experiencing “lack of work and lack of income,” said the woman, who declined to give her name.

The help with food is "huge" and necessary, she said, but the time spent waiting in line could be used to look for work.

Samuel Dingba, 25, youth program coordinator for AALV, drove the New Farms for New Americans van to the Beltline site. Originally from Cameroon, Dingba said he was picking up food for 20 families that don’t have cars.

“It makes me happy to be able to help other families,” Dingba said.
Samuel Dingba - SALLY POLLAK
  • Sally Pollak
  • Samuel Dingba
Also collecting on behalf of other people was Steve Hamlin, president of the board of North Avenue Co-op. Hamlin, 62, said he hoped to get food for nine families but wasn’t certain he’d be allotted that much.

“There’s a lot of people in there that are struggling to make their bills, including lot rent,” Hamlin said of residents at the mobile home park.  “As the president, I go out and do everything I can to help them."

He’s a security guard who’d been working 60 to 80 hours a week, but, with events canceled, his work is down to about 30 hours a week, Hamlin said.

Cars lined up for food Tuesday on the Beltline in Burlington - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • Cars lined up for food Tuesday on the Beltline in Burlington
The food distributed Tuesday included 1,000 Farmers to Families kits, according to Nicole Whalen, spokesperson for the Vermont Foodbank. Paid for by the USDA and put together by the Abbey Group of Enosburg  Falls, each box contains 15 to 25 pounds of produce, 20 pounds of chicken and 7.5 pounds of dairy products, according to Whalen.

In addition, 1,930 boxes of nonperishable food, supplied by FEMA and totaling about 28,800 meals, were distributed.

One man who came for food, Fred Jackson of Burlington, rode in a pickup truck with a U.S. flag sticking up from the hood.  A onetime airplane mechanic, Jackson said he sometimes gets groceries at Feeding Chittenden in Burlington.

“I heard about this, and I’m needy for food,” Jackson, 62, said. “I think they’re doing the best they can do.”

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Thursday, May 21, 2020

Skinny Pancake's ShiftMeals Launches Farm Program

Posted By on Thu, May 21, 2020 at 7:15 AM

Tommy Thompson Community Garden in Burlington - SALLY POLLAK
  • Sally Pollak
  • Tommy Thompson Community Garden in Burlington
ShiftMeals, the hunger-relief  initiative started by Skinny Pancake restaurants to provide free meals to unemployed restaurant workers, musicians, gig workers and others, is establishing an agricultural component, the organization announced this week. The endeavor,  ShiftMeals GrowTeam, is part of the group’s effort to address the rise in food insecurity from the economic impact of the coronavirus.

ShiftMeals GrowTeam will provide laid-off cooks, servers and other hospitality workers access to farms and the means to grow their own food and learn about agriculture.  Through partnerships with gardens and farms in Burlington, Richmond and Marshfield, ShiftMeals GrowTeam will build so-called Victory Farms at which people can cultivate their own food.

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Friday, April 24, 2020

State Issues Guidance for Farmers Markets to Open May 1

Posted By on Fri, Apr 24, 2020 at 8:20 PM

Does' Leap Farm at the 2019 Burlington Farmers Market - FILE: JAMES BUCK
  • File: James Buck
  • Does' Leap Farm at the 2019 Burlington Farmers Market
The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets issued detailed guidance for the state's farmers markets on Friday, allowing them to open May 1. They were previously shuttered under Gov. Phil Scott's "Stay Home, Stay Safe" order.

In a press conference earlier in the day, Scott emphasized that the guidance would "focus on food distribution, not a social gathering."

Market managers, advisory boards and farmers have anxiously awaited guidelines from the state on how they can adapt their operations for the summer season. Originally expected last Friday, today's guidance specifies general operations procedures, social distancing requirements, proper cleaning and sanitary protocols, and increased communication strategies that markets must follow while the stay-at-home order remains in effect.

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Thursday, April 23, 2020

In Swanton, Demand for FEMA-Supplied MREs Exceeded Supply

Posted By on Thu, Apr 23, 2020 at 2:42 PM

A member of the Vermont National Guard loading a case of MREs into a car in Swanton on April 22 - COURTESY OF VERMONT NATIONAL GUARD
  • Courtesy of Vermont National Guard
  • A member of the Vermont National Guard loading a case of MREs into a car in Swanton on April 22
Update, April 24, 5:15 p.m.: This post was updated with new dates for upcoming MRE distributions.

The Vermont National Guard on Wednesday, April 22, distributed 42,240 MREs — or Meals, Ready to Eat — to Vermonters at a distribution site in Swanton, according to the Vermont Foodbank.

The demand for food was so great that the 15 or so Guard members handing out packaged meals ran out of the initial inventory of 24,000 MREs in three hours. The site was shut down for most of the day until reinforcements arrived, according to the Foodbank, which is working with the Guard to distribute the food.

Organizers “scrambled to get more” MREs, said Nicole Whalen, the Foodbank’s director of communications and public affairs. A supplemental shipment arrived at 5 p.m. By the end of the day, the Guard had distributed 42,240 MREs, according to Whalen. “This is crisis mode, 100 percent,” she said.

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Saturday, April 11, 2020

Online Sales Directory Connects Consumers to Vermont Cheese

Posted By on Sat, Apr 11, 2020 at 9:31 AM

A Vermont cheese plate - JORDAN BARRY
  • Jordan Barry
  • A Vermont cheese plate
How did the sudden closure of restaurants in New York City affect artisan and farmstead cheese producers in Vermont? In a word, poorly. But the loss of that major market and others has led to the creation of a new online resource, designed by the Vermont Cheese Council, to connect local cheesemakers to consumers in Vermont and beyond.

Vermont's cheese industry — valued at $650 million, according to the council — is experiencing significant impacts from the COVID-19 crisis. One of the largest sales channels for the state's cheese serves restaurants and institutions, both within Vermont and in urban markets throughout the Northeast.

"Restaurant closures in the New York City area resulted in a simultaneous 50 percent drop in sales for Vermont's artisan cheesemakers," Marty Mundy, executive director of the Vermont Cheese Council, told Seven Days. Mundy added that the drop in sales has since "grown to be over 50 percent for a lot of cheesemakers."

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Friday, April 10, 2020

State Shutters Farmers Markets

Posted By on Fri, Apr 10, 2020 at 7:44 PM

Produce from LePage Farm at a summer Capital City Farmers Market - FILE: HANNAH PALMER EGAN
  • File: Hannah Palmer Egan
  • Produce from LePage Farm at a summer Capital City Farmers Market
Updated April 13, 2020
In a call with farmers market managers Friday morning, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets communicated that farmers markets — which are not deemed essential under Gov. Phil Scott's "Stay Home, Stay Safe" executive order — cannot operate.

As the winter market season wraps up, market managers and their advisory boards have anxiously awaited guidelines from the state for how they can adapt their operations for the summer season. While the state has closed farmers markets for now, it is expected to allow them to operate in a modified fashion at some point soon, according to a VAAFM document released Friday evening.

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Seeds Deemed 'Essential' as Vermonters Plan Gardens During COVID-19

Posted By on Fri, Apr 10, 2020 at 8:00 AM

Vegetable seeds - MARGARET GRAYSON
  • Margaret Grayson
  • Vegetable seeds
Along with toilet paper and flour, Vermonters are noticing an acute shortage of seeds as they slog through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Early April is prime time for starting gardens, and with a directive to stay home, planting vegetables is both a means of exercise and a way to ensure a steady supply of fresh produce this summer (if all goes well).  Delays in shipments and new systems at local garden centers, as well as low or nonexistent stock online, has gardeners planting seeds of doubt.

Gardeners looking to stay at home and purchase seeds online are faced with limited selection. Vermont's own High Mowing Organic Seeds is navigating "unprecedented challenges" and "significant increases in orders and web activity," according to a note posted on the company's blog. They still have seeds for sale, but many varieties are out of stock, and the shipping turnaround time was extended to 20 days as of March 30.

Nurseries and locally owned garden centers around the state are adapting to pre-ordering and curbside service; many have seeds for sale, but they're learning how to communicate new ordering and pickup systems to their customers. Online order forms, lines to pick up bulk soil, virtual nursery tours and plant delivery are all part of the new normal.

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Thursday, April 9, 2020

Feeding Chittenden Makes Daily Meals by the Hundreds for Those in Need

Posted By on Thu, Apr 9, 2020 at 10:09 AM

Feeding Chittenden chef Jim Logan - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • Feeding Chittenden chef Jim Logan
A few weeks ago, Jim Logan was working as a chef-instructor at the Community Kitchen Academy, a culinary jobs program based at Feeding Chittenden in Burlington’s Old North End. He taught aspiring cooks and, with his students, made meals for people who get food at the nonprofit on North Winooski Avenue.

That building is now closed to the public. Food-shelf clients — and it’s a growing population — not long ago selected their own groceries. Now they receive a pre-packed box of food.  The breakfast program, formerly sit-down, is takeout.

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