The COVID-19 crisis has undoubtedly rocked all of our lives, especially those who work in the service sector. While some businesses continue to operate under modified, social-distancing procedures, others have been left unemployed and without consistent wages: both of which impact their access to food. In Burlington, the ShiftMeals program has taken root in response to these challenges and has provided over 2,500 meals so far to Burlington-area residents (and beyond). 

ShiftMeals was the result of a partnership between The Skinny Pancake, Intervale Center, Vermont Community Foundation, and the High Meadows Fund. Anyone in the service sector (i.e. restaurant workers and operators- but also musicians, gig workers, and farmers) can apply for a ShiftMeal with no questions asked. Participants can select a pick-up location at one of The Skinny Pancake locations in Burlington, Montpelier, Quechee, or Waterbury. The program runs twice weekly Burlington and weekly in other locations. 

The idea for Shift Meals might have come from The Skinny Pancake owner, Benji Adler and his staff, but Michael Cyr, member of the marketing and communication division for Shift Meals, says it's more about the big picture. "This whole program wouldn't be possible if we didn't have a well-connected food system in Vermont." Cyr says. ShiftMeals has used many of the connections within Vermont's Farm-to-Plate network to source food from local providers who have had their food distribution networks severed by the pandemic. While food waste has always been a challenge for producers and distributors, it can be especially challenging when institutions like universities and restaurants aren't buying. The Farm-to-Plate Network also connected ShiftMeals to local food foundations to seed the project and expand distribution; Cyr estimates that they will soon serve 20,000 meals to area food shelves in addition to direct meal pickups.

Photo Courtesy of The Skinny Pancake

Some past meals options have included beef chili, beef stroganoff, vegan white bean and kale soup, curried chicken, and pasta bakes. "We wanted to provide comforting, nutritious, and nourishing foods for the program- akin to what you would find in a restaurant." Cyr says. These food choices also provide some familiarity to restaurant workers who, by nature of their trade, may not be used to asking for food from others. 

The ShiftMeals program has successfully allowed The Skinny Pancake to continue paying over twenty-five employees and using its vast kitchen space to produce food for those in need. All of the money raised from its fundraisers will go directly into purchasing and providing meals for the community. The program has also made several donations to larger non-profits and food banks including Burlington's Feeding Chittenden and the Lamoille County Food Shelf. 

If you would like to contribute to the ShiftMeals program or request a meal, click here