Food Security at Middlebury
A Close Look at the Mission and Practices of an Auspicious Start-Up on a College Campus
Food security does not often come to our attention. It’s not a “hot” political topic right now, and college students don’t have to worry about where the next meal will come from (three cheers for the dining hall). However, seven juniors at Middlebury College recently started an organization to confront food security in hopes of bringing the issue to the forefront.
Middlebury Foods officially launched with a mission to “address the wide-spread societal issues that stem from hunger and malnutrition, driven by inadequate access to healthy food options.” Food insecurity means not to have consistent access to the number of calories one needs in a day, usually because of a lack of money.
Poverty and food insecurity tend to go hand in hand. For those who grow up without a sufficient amount of food, it is harder to escape poverty later in life and their children are also likely to grow up hungry. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in Vermont, 27,000 children under 18 live in food insecure households. 12.8% of Vermonters are food insecure — over 80,000 people. Low-income houses spend up to 80% of their income on food. That is why Middlebury Foods strives to provide fast food prices for supermarket quality food in order to address food insecurity.
Middlebury Foods is modeled off of Top Box in Chicago. It delivers boxes—each containing enough healthy food to feed a family of four for a week—to local churches and community centers, where they are distributed to local families in need. By selling in bulk, the Middlebury Foods model cuts out the middleman and overhead costs, reducing the cost of supermarket-quality food by up to 45%. The food boxes have many benefits: they’re easy to buy, contain locally sourced food, are healthy, and only cost 35 dollars.
Chris Kennedy ’15, Harry Zieve-Cohen ’15, Nathan Weil ’15, Oliver Mayers ’15, Jack Cookson ’15, Elias Gilman ’15, and Eddie Danino-Beck ’15 began the massive undertaking of launching Middlebury Foods this past spring. They remained on Middlebury’s campus for the majority of the summer, working tirelessly. The group also took on a team of enthusiastic interns this summer to help around the office. Middlebury Foods had an official office space on campus, which was most notable for the various poster-sized to-do lists hanging on its walls.
At first glance, Middlebury Foods looks like any other student group on a college campus, with its casual atmosphere and Custom Ink t-shirts. However, one quickly notices the level of professionalism. The group is an official member of the Hunger Council of Addison County and the organization was recently officially licensed as a non-for profit 501(3)(c) in the state of Vermont.
The organization has also been very successful so far. They have raised $11,573, which is 579% of their $2,000 goal. Their boxes will go out the first week of October. Also impressively, the organization is entirely student-run. From pitching to suppliers to packaging and delivering food boxes and all the coordination efforts and logistics in between, students handle it all.
Their efforts won them a $3,000 grant from the Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Middlebury College, and they hope to continue to grow and expand. Ideally, one day they will be able to provide food boxes to all Vermonters who are currently food insecure.
Until then, they are off to a great start!
This article represents the sole opinion of the author, and does not necessarily reflect the policy or position of Change-Magazine.