Veggie Van Go

ST. JOHNSBURY - Northern Vermont Regional Hospitals Veggie Van Go program comes at a critical time during Covid-19.  The four year old program is hosted by the hospital and put on by the Vermont food bank, and is a partnership between the food bank, the hospital and schools in the area.

The hospital's main goal in delivering food to the community is to provide fresh produce. But when the pandemic started, the hospital had to come up with a new way to put on the event without risking anyone's health.

"We always did it inside the hospital, and we set it up kind of like a farmers market, and people went around and picked what they wanted. Because of covid, we've limited access to people in the hospital, so since April we've been doing it outside," NVRH Public Information Officer, Laural Ruggles says.  "There's no eligibility requirements, you don't have to sign up."

Ruggles explains that the event has been running smoothly since it has been outside and it will continue to run that way through the winter months.

But since the beginning of the pandemic, there seems to be more of a need from the community for healthy food options. When the event was held inside they saw roughly 200 families show up. But now, because of the pandemic, there are more than 400 families in need.

"Last month was our highest month.  We had five hundred families," Ruggles said.

The fresh produce comes from various sources, but most of it comes from farmers in the state of Vermont. Some new produce has been offered since the pandemic, and no one leaves empty handed. But Ruggles says the event could not be possible without all the amazing volunteers.

"We've always had a good volunteer base, and that's what makes it go well.  Even when it was inside we usually had at least a dozen people," 

Shawn Tester, CEO of NVRH, says the hospital loves to serve their community, and says that the event gives the hospital the opportunity to connect with the community, and that the hospital will always be a constant resource.

"It's just another way to reinforce that we're here to serve you, and help you no matter what your challenges are," Tester said enthusiastically.