Food shelf refrigerators help get fresh produce to more Vermonters

3 min read
Chester, VT

The Chester Andover Family Center & Food Shelf serves nearly 200 Vermonters each month. As the pandemic forced Vermonters into lockdown in 2020, record numbers of Vermonters faced unemployment and food insecurity. The Food Shelf saw an increasing number of patrons each week. But the Center committed to never turning a family away.

At the same time, Efficiency Vermont responded to the crisis with limited-time offers to support non-profits providing critical services to Vermonters. Energy efficiency improvements can reduce costs, allowing these organizations to serve more Vermonters. Efficiency Vermont rolled out its first-ever statewide offers to significantly bring down the cost of efficient equipment that these providers need every day.

Food shelves need refrigerators to store high quality fresh food

Efficiency Vermont Customer Engagement Lead Meghan Chambers had visited the Chester Andover Family Center & Food Shelf twice. After the first visit, Meghan helped take advantage of our traditional offers to upgrade to efficient LED lighting in their consignment shop. During the second visit, the Center wanted to talk about upgrades for the Food Shelf.

The Food Shelf needed new refrigerators. Working refrigerators are necessary to store and distribute fresh food, dairy, and meat. When the food shelf is low on fridge space, they may have to turn down food donations. Energy efficient refrigerators can help them trim their energy bills and leave more to spend on food.

That means that when a fridge or freezer breaks down, they don’t turn away a family. Instead, every family might get a little less, particularly less fresh food. But new refrigerators are expensive. Buying a new fridge would take funding away from food purchases.

New refrigerators help the Food Shelf meet its mission

Efficiency Vermont’s offers were available for a limited time to non-profits serving vulnerable Vermonters. That included food shelves, shelters, domestic abuse response centers, senior services/centers, veteran services, community health & substance abuse programs, libraries, community centers, racial and social justice organizations, and job training centers. Our staff quickly reached out to non-profits we thought might benefit.

When Meghan connected with the Food Shelf, she learned that one of their fridges had broken down. They were scrambling to get an affordable replacement. Thanks to the incentives, the Food Shelf replaced the broken fridge and another older, less efficient fridge with two new glass-door refrigerators. These new efficient models help patrons see what’s available before opening the fridge to reduce energy loss through an open door. The Food Shelf also added a new refrigerator and freezer to keep up with increased demand.

“Our mission is to provide high quality fresh produce, dairy and meat to our Food Shelf participants. Currently we shop weekly for these items. Our new refrigeration will allow us to take advantage of special food offers and help us maintain our produce. Our ability to provide more fresh food to food insecure residents in our community is important. Thanks to Meghan, this will happen.”

Nena Nanfeldt, Board Member, Chester Andover Family Center

ENERGY STAR® certified refrigerators are around 40% more efficient than non-certified models. Inefficient equipment emits significant excess heat. That’s not a problem in the winter. In the summer, it might make food spoil faster or working conditions harder for staff and volunteers. The new models emit less heat, keeping the space more comfortable year-round. They’re also cleaner, helping create a more welcoming space for all patrons. But the best part: food shelf patrons immediately benefited by getting access to more fresh food each week.

Working together, we can serve more Vermonters

These offers helped seventeen food shelves in 2020. Upgrades included new refrigerators and freezers, lighting, and convection ovens. Efficiency Vermont also helped 33 other human service non-profits. In each case, the upgrades will save the organization money for years to come. Those savings will go back into the communities they serve. Thanks to this work, a greater number of Vermonters will benefit in the coming years.