A cool way to serve the community

4 min read

Efficiency Vermont partners with Foodworks to improve their refrigeration system for perishable food donations, as more people lean on the food shelf to provide healthy staples.

Perishable food and produce prices at grocery stores have hit an all-time high. As food and housing costs continue to rise, more Vermonters are seeking out food shelves to supplement their food sources.

In Brattleboro, Efficiency Vermont recently worked with Foodworks—a free grocery store and food shelf operated by the Groundworks Collaborative, a nonprofit that seeks to end hunger and homelessness in the region—to install new, efficient refrigeration that connects local shoppers with fresh, healthy food in a grocery store environment.

“Everything is becoming so expensive, so coming here is super helpful,” said one shopper. “I wouldn’t buy fruit and all the types of vegetables I used to cook if Foodworks wasn’t here. The variety of vegetables is great and I look forward seeing what is available each time I shop.”

The refrigeration project is one of three projects Efficiency Vermont has completed with Groundworks to reduce their electric usage, totaling about 27,400 kWh in energy savings each year.

A better experience for shoppers and staff

On any given day, a food shelf might receive a couple of boxes of cheese, a crate of broccoli nearing its expiration date, or nothing at all. Efficient refrigeration helps products stay fresh, so that food shelves can provide a consistently better selection of perishable goods to more customers.

The new refrigeration improves Foodworks’ ability to store and distribute much-needed food staples to the Brattleboro community. Shoppers can grab produce and prepared foods from the store’s reach-in refrigerator and freezer coolers. Meanwhile, Foodworks staff can stash an inventory backstop of perishables in walk-in freezers and coolers, until the food is needed up front.

The refrigeration makes life easier on staff as well as shoppers. Foodworks owns one box truck and transit van for food donations and employs just four full-time staff. The store doesn’t have the capacity to pick up perishables from donors on a daily basis.

“With so few employees, we have to limit the number of times we leave the store,” said Jon Hoover, Director of Operations at Groundworks. “It would be impossible to go every day.”

Efficiency stretches limited resources further

Foodworks received an Efficiency Vermont rebate to cover about a third of the cost to purchase two high efficiency evaporators and two high efficiency condensing units for their commercial refrigeration system. The evaporators remove heat and moisture from the air, and the high efficiency compressors release that warmer air outside the building.

The upgrades will help Foodworks lower its operational costs, year after year. Commercial refrigeration is notoriously energy-intensive, but efficient upgrades can save up to 50 percent on energy costs, putting a significant dent in monthly energy bills.

“Our responsibility is to make sure the money we raise is spent as impactfully as possible,” said Jon. “Efficiency Vermont helps us reduce our building operating costs so that more of the money we receive can directly impact the people we work with.”

Improving the systems that support our communities

Food shelves serve an ever more critical need in our communities. Efficiency Vermont is proud to partner with Foodworks, Groundworks, and other community organizations to reduce energy-related costs and hassles, so that they can focus on delivering an even greater impact.

Efficiency Vermont was grateful to partner with Groundworks/Foodworks to assist in lowering their building operating costs and we look forward to continuing our partnership and finding additional savings opportunities at their facilities.” Says Meghan Chambers, the Efficiency Vermont energy advisor who oversaw the project with the Groundworks team.