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Success Stories

Essential Storage Expansion Helps Food Connects Create More Capacity

Kevin Lambert
Food Supply
Richard Berkfield of Food Connects stands in a large, shallow square hollow in a cement floor

Food Connects is a Brattleboro, VT-based nonprofit that ‘builds healthy families, thriving farms, and connected communities’ by delivering regional food and providing educational and consulting services aimed at transforming the local food system. The organization has grown significantly since Executive Director Richard Berkfield founded it in 2009, and took on an exponential level of importance during the COVID pandemic. As supply chain issues impacted distribution networks, Food Connects’ customer base of producers and consumers doubled. Adapting to the new and growing demand for efficient, affordable food distribution would be the org’s defining challenge.

Building Out Storage to BUILD UP RELIABILITY
Storage capacity is among the many typical bottlenecks that local food systems must widen to become more efficient. And with the reality of growing demand comes the reputational pressure to keep up with it, as farmers and producers will only do business with consistent distribution partners they can rely on to sell their products. Berkfield set his focus on securing more square feet of cooling and freezing space to sustain their heavy increase in operational activity. The Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation (BDCC)—a friend to the org—offered a large warehouse in its industrial business park building, and Food Connects jumped at the opportunity to take it over.

The next step was to outfit the space with temperature- and humidity-controlled storage. In 2022, Food Connects launched a capital campaign to raise funds for the project through diverse investment partners. The State of Vermont contributed $150,000, and Senator Patrick Leahy committed $500,000 through congressionally directed spending. USDA Rural Development—which helped the org’s earlier growth with a $30,100 Community Facilities Grant in ‘18 and $47,500 Economic Impact Initiative Grant in ‘21—obligated a $50,000 Rural Business Development Grant, securing healthy local food options for thousands of rural residents throughout the Northeast.

Obligation Amount:
Year(s) of Obligation:
Congressional District:
  • Vermont: District (at Large)
  • New Hampshire: District 1