Everyone Eats supports struggling restaurants and food-insecure households

By Emily Hogan

Restaurants and access to food in Vermont have both been notably altered by the Covid-19 pandemic: restaurant revenue has declined, resulting in layoffs, and food insecurity now affects one in four Vermonters. In order to mitigate both of these concerns, Vermont put into place Everyone Eats, a temporary program started in July to distribute free meals to food-insecure households at dozens of sites around the state. The meals are prepared by local restaurants, which receive funds to purchase ingredients from Vermont farms and food producers. 

Mamma Tamara, cucina Italiana is a catering business that travels to and serves Italian cuisine at farmers markets across the state of Vermont. Now, the business provides meals for the Vermont Everyone Eats program. (COURTESY PHOTO)

The program, run by the Agency of Commerce and Community Development in partnership with Southeastern Vermont Community Action (SEVCA), is funded by a $5 million portion of the state’s Covid-19 Relief Fund. SEVCA is responsible for allocating the funding and administering it to the program’s hubs. 

Charlie DiPrinzio ’21 is a coordinator for the Rutland “hub” of this program, which is run through the Vermont Farmers Food Center (VFFC). The center began distributing over 800 meals per week in late August, according to the VFFC’s website. There are currently nine restaurants associated with the Rutland hub of this program. 

DiPrinzio noted that the mission of the Everyone Eats program is not only to help “people who have been impacted by Covid-19, whether that’s financially impacted or emotionally or physically” but also to help by “providing some steady income to restaurants that have been struggling, and injecting more money into the local economy,” because of the program requirement that the meals include 10% local food.

Everyone Eats has seen significant success throughout Vermont. The coalition of local food shelves, shelters, other service providers, businesses, community groups and private citizens working in partnership with SEVCA is producing and distributing 11,000 meals per week, according to their website.

While DiPrinzio noted that college restrictions requiring students to stay within Addison County have kept him from going into the Rutland community to see success at those restaurants firsthand, he says that the Rutland hub of this program has been collecting positive feedback from those picking up meals.

One catering business in particular, Mamma Tamara, cucina Italiana, has benefited significantly from its involvement in Everyone Eats. Tamara Musto, owner of the business, joined Everyone Eats in order to minimize the impacts that Covid-19 has had on her business. “Business slowed down a lot because of Covid. I used to be at the market in Rutland, and we had to shut down, so basically my business shut down too,” she said. Musto’s situation is one that many other restaurant owners across Vermont and the country can relate to, as their primary sources of income are put to a halt. Musto has been working with BROC Community Action, a nonprofit in Rutland helping with food security, and Everyone Eats in order to build up her catering business again, aiming to soon open her own deli.

“I started to do the markets, and they give me a little help, and [I receive] love from people around, but the big push that I had with Everyone Eats really helped with making my dream come true,” Musto said. She’ll be opening her deli on Nov. 13 in Danby, Vt. 

DiPrinzio makes sure to pass these comments on to the state funders to let them know how beneficial this program is. He says that although funding is set to expire in mid-December, administrators of the program are working to extend it, which requires legislative action. DiPrinzio notes that since the hubs of this program have known all along that Everyone Eats is a temporary program, they have been trying to provide information and connect the beneficiaries of the meals with existing food programs and resources in Vermont, including 3SquaresVT and other food security programs that can help with food access. 

It is hard to say what the future will look like for DiPrinzio’s hub of Everyone Eats, but despite uncertainty, the program is focused on achieving their goals of stimulating the economy and helping food-insecure families and restaurants.