News from the Network: June 2022

News from the Network is an email series from Building Bright Futures that spotlights the work of Regional Councils, updates related to early childhood data, emerging priorities from VECAP Committees, and more. Written by our Policy and Program Director Anna Brouillette, this update gives a closer look at BBF’s work across the state of Vermont to improve the well-being of young children and families.

Over the past several months, many early childhood partners, Regional Councils, and communities in our state have been turning their attention to growing concerns about families’ ability to access and afford basic needs. From rising food, housing, and fuel costs to a dire formula shortage, we commend the organizations and individuals who are working tirelessly during this time to make sure that families and young children in our communities have what they need.

The Formula Shortage in Vermont

Families in Vermont, along with those across the country with babies who rely on formula, are struggling to find the formula they need due to a nationwide shortage. In the face of these challenges, many community partners have stepped up to connect families with sources of formula and have circulated communications about the availability of formula in creative forums, posting on social media and sharing through organizations such as Parent Child Centers. For instance, the Springfield Area Parent Child Center has been actively posting about their Formula Bank resource, which, as long as supplies last, provides a free can of formula once a week for all families from Southern Windsor and Northern Windham Counties. The Vermont Department of Health has also set up an informational website for families seeking help amidst the formula shortage, providing helpful safety tips and information about who to reach out to if you are struggling to find formula.

A Vermont Early Childhood Fund Grantee’s Transportation Project in Franklin/Grand Isle

In Franklin and Grand Isle Counties, a transportation-focused project led by the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity (CVOEO) in partnership with the Franklin/Grand Isle Regional Council is one of seven Vermont Early Childhood Fund Grantees this year. Given challenges identified by the community, including the high cost of owning a vehicle and the shortage of public transportation options in this region, the project aims to provide support for families through gas cards and financial assistance with vehicle maintenance, such as the purchase of snow tires, the cost of inspections, and more. These financial supports and services related to transportation are filling a critical need and supporting mobility for families in this region of the state.

Community-Organized Food Programs 

Finally, community-based organizations and BBF Regional Councils continue to focus on the importance of ensuring families have access to sufficient food and nutrition, especially during the summer months. The Vermont Foodbank’s “VeggieVanGo” program continues to be valued by many communities in Vermont. Using a drive-through model, VeggieVanGo gives out free produce and local food at school and hospital settings, and helps promote education and outreach related to food security. At some recent events, participants have also been given take-home rapid COVID-19 test kits. Demand is high, with an “overwhelming” turnout at some of their recent events held in the Northeast Kingdom. Communities also continue to promote and rely on the “Vermont Everyone Eats” program, which has supplied prepared meals for countless families during the pandemic and served as a stabilizing source of income for local restaurants and food producers. It was recently announced that the program is set to continue beyond July 1, 2022.

Who is Making an Impact on Access to Basic Needs in Your Community?

There are hundreds of other programs and initiatives that could be highlighted that are making a difference in families’ ability to access critical and basic needs both during the pandemic and on an ongoing basis. What is going on in your community? Please consider sharing information about these initiatives and projects with the BBF Regional Manager in your area, so that our team can make connections, refer interested partners or community members, and help promote opportunities via social media.

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