click to enlarge File: Suzanne Podhaizer
Currently, members of the Food Hub select from bundles or pick items from a weekly list that might include locally raised mushrooms, vegetables, dairy and meats; Vermont-crafted tofu and tempeh; or seafood fished sustainably in Alaska by a Vermont-based fisherman.
When the program launched 15 years ago, the Food Hub delivered orders to members’ workplaces, such as the UVM Medical Center. Home deliveries started in 2017. During the pandemic, demand skyrocketed, but it has since settled down to about 230 member orders per week, Marcotte said.
In Marcotte’s words, the original aim of the Food Hub was “to connect consumers and farmers in new ways and fill some of the gaps where small- and medium-scale farmers and food producers weren’t necessarily being served well by [existing] infrastructure.” The nonprofit’s research showed that producers and consumers wanted more direct ways to reach one another.
A decade ago, when Tony Naples launched Starbird Fish, the Food Hub was critical to building his business, he said. It has remained a steady and significant account, bringing in about 15 percent of his total sales.
The recent email informing him of the program’s end “was surprising and sad,” Naples said. That news, combined with challenges selling through local retail outlets, is forcing Naples to rethink his operation.
“I will probably have to shift to direct-to-consumer [sales],” he said. “The Intervale enabled me to do that.”