BRATTLEBORO — Groundworks Collaborative has signed a lease on 141 Canal Street—the former home of Domino’s Pizza—as the new home for the region’s most heavily utilized food shelf program. The Food Shelf, which has operated from the Drop-In Center at 60 South Main Street since the 1980s, served well over 3,700 people in over 1,400 households in 2018.
Originally a program of the Brattleboro Area Drop-In Center and operating out of a roughly 100 sq. ft. room in the South Main Street cape, the Food Shelf expanded in 2015—with the merger that created Groundworks Collaborative—and moved into the two-bay garage at the back of the property. The move increased the number of households that could “shop” the food pantry simultaneously, ultimately increasing the numbers of families and individuals served. With added refrigeration capacity, the program has since grown to include a daily offering of fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as meat, bread, yogurt, and other perishable foods.
Chosen by polling staff and clients, the program will now be called “Foodworks” and will be opening later this summer.
The relocation will expand access and parking—providing a better experience for patrons of the program.
While the program has been open three-and-a-half weekdays (24 hours each week) on South Main Street, the new hours for Foodworks will be:
● Mondays: 11am – 4pm
● Tuesdays: Noon – 2pm for seniors only
● Tuesdays: 2pm – 4pm open to all
● Wednesdays: 1pm – 6pm
● Thursdays: CLOSED
● Fridays: Noon – 4pm
● Last Saturday of the Month: 9am – Noon
● Sundays: CLOSED
Reasons for the change in hours include improving access by creating some early evening and weekend hours (on the last Saturday of each month) as well as improvements in the available selection of food. Opening the program later in the day will allow staff to work with local grocery stores to pick up food and get it on the shelves prior to opening the program for the day, improving the selection for all patrons.
“We wanted to make sure we kept our Senior Hours,” said Groundworks Food Shelf Coordinator Christine Colascione in a statement. “We have noticed that on Tuesday afternoons, seniors were often lining up beginning as early as noon for our 1pm opening. We changed the Senior Hours to reduce people waiting in line, and will now be opening up the program to everyone from 2-4pm on Tuesdays. We hope that though this is a slight reduction in hours overall, that the addition of evening and weekend hours along with these later daily hours will provide people with a more fully, consistently stocked and accessible food shelf experience.”
In addition to daily donations from local grocery and convenience stores, Foodworks is a member of the Vermont Foodbank, and spends roughly $3,400 a month on food purchased through the Foodbank to keep the shelves stocked for anyone with need. By leveraging a vast array of donations, Groundworks offers a wide variety of options to local households who may “shop” the food shelf (at no cost) once per month. Foodworks is intended to be a supplement to 3SquaresVT (formerly known as “food stamps” or “SNAP”) benefits. The program is often busiest at the end of the month when many Vermonters’ benefits have run out.
“Everyone has experienced having to lean on someone else at some point in their lives,” said Josh Davis, Groundworks’ Executive Director. “We’re here to be that support for our neighbors in a time of need and want to ensure that everyone feels welcome when they come through our doors.”
Foodworks staff are committed to making sure no one is turned away in an emergency and has consistently provided food to Groundworks’ Day Shelter program, so that those without housing and a place to store food can access food on a daily basis as needed. A regular supply of food to the Day Shelter at Groundworks Drop-In Center will ensure that this practice continues despite the relocation of the Foodworks program.
According to Foodworks Coordinator Christine Colascione, “We believe that access to quality food is a human right.” Foodworks is a community resource meant for anyone with need in the region.
The program’s limit guidelines are based on the price and quantity of each item, and range from “take one per household” to “take as much as you need.”
“We trust families to most accurately determine what they need and we only limit the items we know will fly off the shelf,” says Colascione. “We also encourage people to come in weekly for extra fresh produce and bread.”
Groundworks has a personalized intake process—taking into account that people have different needs based on their current situation, such as losing a job, relying on social security, or needing to follow a medical diet. While the program aims to ask for as little information as possible, patrons are asked to identify their situation so an appropriate plan can be made to ensure each household using the program has enough food.
Colascione added, “With the increased space we’ll have at the Canal Street location, we’ll be able to make these conversations with patrons more discreet and confidential.”
For more program information, please call Groundworks Drop-In Center at 802-257-5415.
The move is expected to cost Groundworks upwards of $15,000, primarily due to the cost of building a walk-in cooler and freezer on the site.
“We’re thankful for the in-kind support offered by K. Daley Builders, TDS Electric, and Heritage A/C and Refrigeration,” said Groundworks’ Director of Operations, Rhianna Kendrick, “and we’re counting on the generosity of our community to help offset the costs to make this much needed program a reality for our neighbors in need.”
Groundworks is accepting donations to help fund the move and start-up costs for the program’s new location. Donations can be made online at GroundworksVT.org or by sending a check made out to Groundworks Collaborative (please indicate “Foodworks Launch” in the memo) to PO Box 370, Brattleboro, Vermont 05302.
For an interview, please contact:
jdavis@GroundworksVT.org | 802-490-2951