NEWPORT CITY – The city council granted permission for the Green Mountain Farm to School Program to sell vegetables out of a 31-foot van at the Northeast Kingdom Community Action building. The program received a farmer’s market promotion grant through the United States Department of Agriculture to bring more fresh food into the “food desert” of the Northeast Kingdom.
“There are four areas of low income and low access in our region and Newport is one of them,” Meghan Stoko of the Green Mountain Farm to School Program. “Our project is to bring food from farmers in this area to people who don’t have access to it.”
The van will sell the food on Fridays, beginning Sept. 21.
As a way to promote the van, artists will paint the van this week. They will also hand out informational flyers that contain hours of operation. Stoko hopes to train people how to cook.
The council declined Stoko’s request to wave the $300 annual vendor fee. “You’re already getting a grant from the federal government,” said Ward. “You’re competing with other stores on Main Street that sell vegetables."
Grants recipients receive a limited amount of money that they aren’t supposed to go over, answered Stoko.
“What about all those businesses that are non-profit, that aren’t making any money and are struggling,” asked Ward. “We don’t mind charging them fees. We charge them taxes. We charge them water and sewer. We put it right to them.”
Customers may buy the food with EBT cards and Harvest Health coupons.
“We’re there for the population who is at the food bank to provide fresh food to them,” said Stoko. She doesn’t believe the van will compete with Vista Food Store and Newport Natural Foods. However, the van will be open to everyone.
Monette, who told Stoko that she would be selling the food at cost, said he’s not inclined to wave the fee.