NORTHFIELD, VT.—In response to the escalating food insecurity being experienced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Burr family, who owns and operates The Woods Lodge, has partnered with CERV, the organization that runs the Northfield food shelf, with the help of generous donations from members of the local community and Northfield Savings Bank, to provide prepared meals as an additional food resource to local families and seniors in need.
What started out as an idea to provide a one-time donation to the local food shelf, has turned into a weekly occurrence, for the last three months, and counting.
Every Friday, with the help of financial donations from members of the local community to cover the cost of supplies, the Burr family gathers in the kitchen at The Woods Lodge to cook and assemble 100 individually packaged and labeled meals. The meals are then delivered on Saturday morning, to be handed out by the volunteers at CERV, during the weekly drive-thru pickup at the food shelf. CERV receives donations and purchases items using funds donated to it throughout the year, which helps families and seniors in Northfield and the surrounding area put food on their tables. Some sources include the Vermont Foodbank, Tops Market, and individuals and organizations such as churches, Norwich University groups, and the Trijang Buddhist Institute. The “heat-and-eat” prepared meals provided by The Woods Lodge, through its Feed a Friend initiative, have been a great new addition, making it easier for struggling families to enjoy a home cooked meal.
Jonathan and Lisa Burr, owners of The Woods Lodge, a local events and lodging facility that offers catering and bar services, saw the opportunity to fill a need in Northfield back in March when their business was forced to shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. With restaurants closed by the governor’s mandate, and grocery shopping becoming more difficult, the Burrs recognized there was going to be a need for more options, so they started offering a weekly menu of prepared meals that folks could order and pay for online, for pick up or delivery. Their children, Benjamin and Abigail, reminded them that not everyone in town who needed this service could afford it, so together, the family decided to find a way to provide some prepared meals to those less fortunate Vermonters.
First Meals Went Quickly
After a few phone calls, it was determined that partnering with CERV, Community Emergency Relief Volunteers, was the best option to reach the most people in need. The first donation of 40 prepared meals was well-received, and in fact, they were all handed out in the first two hours of that Saturday’s drive thru pickup, which saw over 50 households avail themselves of the program. It was evident immediately that there was more of a need than they had thought, and that to continue weekly, and increase the number of donated meals, the Burrs would need some help.
In the hopes that their current customers would be willing to help feed their neighbors, Lisa Burr added a donation option on the online ordering page for the weekly menu, and sent it out with the marketing email and social media posts. The response was instantaneous and overwhelming. Within the first few hours, the donations started coming in. By the end of the first few days, and with the help of a few large donations and many smaller ones, they amounted to enough funding to allow the Feed a Friend initiative to continue. Over the last 10 weeks, donations have kept trickling in, and the Burrs were able to increase the number of weekly meals to 80 at first and then 100.
Even though the ongoing donations have continued to come in weekly, at this past Saturday’s delivery, Lisa had to inform CERV volunteers that in order to keep up the current pace, more donations would need to be solicited, and she asked for their feedback. Because the volunteers felt the need for the meals was still great, the decision was made to approach Northfield Savings Bank, as well as one of the original benefactors who had offered more help if it was needed, for a substantial contribution. After a quick e-mail exchange, that benefactor stepped up to the “plate” and made another generous donation. He also issued a challenge to Northfield Savings Bank to match his most recent donation to allow the meals to continue for a while longer, and it was met with gracious and immediate acceptance.
Because of this most recent partnership between a concerned citizen and a local, community-minded bank, and all of the other members of our community whose donations have fueled it so far, the Feed a Friend initiative will be able to continue to help others in need. The initiative is still accepting individual donations, and The Woods Lodge and The Burr family have committed to provide meals to CERV for as long as the need and the community support exists.