$700K program had significant local impact.
The Vermont Emergency Eats (VEE) program distributed over 49,000 meals made by local restaurants to flood-impacted Vermonters in need between August 7 and November 4, 2023. Based on the successful “three-pillar” VEE model, Vermont Emergency Eats meals were made by thirty local restaurants using an average of 25% Vermont ingredients and received by Vermonters whose food security was negatively impacted by the summer flooding.
An impact study done by agricultural economists Elizabeth Schuster and Michelle Klieger indicates that this short-term, targeted application of the VEE model had an impressive multiplier effect with robust economic benefits at all levels of the program.
The initial $700,000 invested in the program by the state catalyzed an additional $1,120,000 recirculated by restaurants and farmers into local spending on labor and ingredients, along with a further $88,000 in private dollars invested in Vermont-owned farms and restaurants on flood recovery, business infrastructure, and equipment.
"We think of Vermont Emergency Eats as being about feeding people, which is true,” said Elizabeth Schuster, Sustainable Economies Consulting. “But equally important is the benefit to participating restaurants, which reported $703,500 in flood damages. These restaurants were able to use the cash flow from the meals to start repairing their businesses."
Participating restaurants purchased an average of 25% percent local ingredients to use in VEE meals even though there was no local ingredient mandate. This passed the benefit of the program along to 68+ Vermont farmers and food producers.
Schuster and Klieger’s report advises “that a plan be established to activate Vermont Emergency Eats in future emergencies where there is a need for restaurant-prepared meals,” while noting that “more planning is needed to be ready for repeated and consistent reactivation of the program during emergencies impacting food security.”
The Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD) contracted with Southeastern Vermont Community Action (SEVCA) to administer the program. The ten flood-impacted counties were served by six community Hub organizations, including Capstone Community Action, Center for an Agricultural Economy, Chester Helping Hands, Green Mountain Farm To School, The Giving Fridge, Springfield Family Center, and Vermont Farmers Food Center.
"The three-pillar Vermont Emergency Eats program makes good economic sense," said Kathleen Devlin, SEVCA’s Interim Executive Director. "And it makes sense in other ways as well. It's an opportunity for the state to support communities in helping their own during an emergency while simultaneously leveraging a remarkable economic multiplier effect, stabilizing independent Vermont restaurants, and building resilience in our local food systems."
Schuster and Klieger’s Vermont Emergency Eats Impact Report can be found at vtemergencyeats.org/impact-report.
Vermont Emergency Eats, a short-term emergency program modeled after the pandemic-era Vermont Everyone Eats program, is designed to provide nutritious restaurant prepared meals for Vermonters whose food security has been negatively impacted by qualifying emergency events. Vermont Emergency Eats was created to provide a stabilizing source of income for Vermont restaurants, farmers, and food producers while stimulating Vermont’s local economy during times of disaster.
For press inquiries or more information, contact Amanda Witman at VEE@sevca.org.