Food Systems Spotlight: Food Connects

Author: 
Deneé Woods

We know it’s not Spring yet, but every warm and sunny day reminds us that we’re at least getting closer. Before we know it, Spring will rear its head - and with it, Spring Cleaning. Many of us will soon be opening the closet doors, walking out to the garage, and taking a good hard look at those parts of the lawn in need of a little sprucing up. With all of its junk drawers and refrigerator space, the kitchen will probably need a little TLC too. Because, face it, we’ve all picked up that forgotten container in the back of our fridge and wondered How did you get in here? 

That’s the question we’re thinking about for today’s Food Systems Spotlight. How does our food get here? So often, the main focus is put on what food is being grown, produced, and eaten. However, we at the Food Alliance know that an equally important question is how food travels from farm to plate. A healthy New Hampshire food system needs to address issues around distribution in order to adequately support the many amazing farms and foodpreneurs in our region.

Our fantastic network partner, Food Connects, is this week’s Food Systems Spotlight because they are working to do just that. Food Connects began in 2009 as a Vermont-based food hub under the name Windham Farm and Food. As their programming developed over time to focus mainly on food hub work, they rebranded themselves as Food Connects in 2017. It wasn’t long before Food Connects joined forces with one of our hardworking and diverse New Hampshire food hubs, Monadnock Menus. As the two brands merged, Food Connects began offering their services through both the Food Connects brand in Vermont and the Monadnock Menus brand in New Hampshire.

It’s easy to love Food Connects and the work they do. They not only believe in the importance of eating and buying local and keeping money in our community, but are providing a way for it tohappen.Based in Brattleboro, VT, Food Connects serves as a connection point between producers and wholesale buyers who are looking to purchase local food products and support both their local and regional economy. Through a smooth and well-designed website and ordering system, they offer buyers the opportunity to pick from meat, dairy, produce, and baked goods sourced from over sixty producers throughout southern Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts.  

The services provided by Food Connects are a huge benefit to everyone within the food system. By having their products sold to restaurants, institutions, and other wholesale buyers through Food Connects, farmers and foodpreneurs are able to expand into more local markets while still focusing on the work that they love and do best: making good food. In turn, those buyers gain access to a wide range of high quality, local foods that they can use to stock shelves, craft delicious menus, and reach their own business goals. At the end of the line is the customer, or the everyday citizen. All of this networking and distribution between producers and wholesale buyers means that shoppers, customers, and clients gain more access to food they can feel good about.

Food Connects also keeps busy with their Farm to School program, through which they offer resources and support to those working to get farm fresh produce into Vermont and New Hampshire school systems. On top of offering schools the chance to purchase local food from their ecommerce website, Food Connects provides coaching in areas such as seasonal menu planning, school garden design, and community and administration engagement. Their website also houses a host of resources on topics ranging from food security and hunger, field trip opportunities, and helpful workshops to illustrated Harvest of the Month posters.

If reading this makes you want to find out more about Food Connects and the work they do, we have good news! They’ll be at our upcoming Statewide Gathering to help lead a session titled “Developing a Statewide Food Hub Network & Community of Practice,” where they’ll engage in the ongoing work of developing a food hub network throughout New Hampshire. This breakout will be a welcome space for all farmers, processors, distributors, aggregators, and others excited about food hubs and creating a community of practice in the Granite State.

Stay tuned for future Food Systems Spotlights to learn about those working to grow and develop our New Hampshire food system! Also be sure to take a look at the Agenda & Workshops page to see all our breakout sessions being offered at the Statewide Gathering, and to register soon!

Questions? Thoughts? Suggestions for our next spotlight? Please email our Communications Coordinator, Samantha Cave, here.