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Food Connects to get $1,000 from The Abbey Group to better serve local schools

The Abbey Group has pledged to donate $1,000 to Food Connects, a Vermont-based non-profit that runs a Farm-to-School program and food hub.

“The Abbey Group has a long-standing commitment to supporting local food in our communities,” said David Underwood, CEO of The Abbey Group. “We enthusiastically give back to organizations that share those commitments.”

Food Connects seeks to build healthy families, thriving farms and connected communities, according to the organization’s website. Its farm-to-school program helps bring local, fresh ingredients into cafeterias around southern Vermont, as well as educate students about healthy food through hands-on engagement.

The Abbey Group does the same in its 100-plus schools across the region.

Last year, donations such as this one helped Food Connects to expand its food hub services into New Hampshire schools, to provide additional services in schools, and to grow the local economy through food system development.

“We can’t thank The Abbey Group enough for their generous support of our work,” said Richard Berkfield, executive director of Food Connects. “Their donation allows Food Connects to support more schools in increasing meal participation and local purchasing while simultaneously opening up new markets for our local farmers.”

The Abbey Group is a comprehensive food service management company based in Sheldon, Vermont. It provides meals at more than 100 schools across New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont, and at several corporate and government food courts.

For more information on Food Connects and its programs, please visit www.foodconnects.org.

MEDIA INQUIRIES:
Stanley Blow III
Marketing Associate
The Abbey Group
stanley@abbeygroup.net
(O): 800-696-4748, ext. 18

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Top Abbey Group executives get new positions

SHELDON, Vt. — As The Abbey Group continues to expand its influence into New Hampshire and Upstate New York, two high-ranking employees have gained new titles.

Scott Choiniere — the former vice president of operations — will now be the executive vice president of the company, and Nina Hansen — a longtime school nutrition specialist — will take over as VP of operations.

Choiniere said it’s hard to say exactly what he does, as he does just about everything. At its core, his job is a support role. He advocates for employees and goes wherever he is needed.

“I do what it takes to get the job done,” he said.

Sometimes that means helping an account get its computer point-of-sale system up and running. Other times, it means closing deals and helping the company grow into new markets.

Hansen is a 20-plus-year veteran of The Abbey Group. Among her many duties, she spearheads account development in both new and current accounts — training new managers and making sure they comply with US Department of Agriculture regulations. She also will continue to act as the food service director for Bellows Free Academy St. Albans, St. Albans Town Educational Center, St. Albans City School and the Winooski School District.

While their titles have changed, Choiniere and Hansen will continue to work closely with each other and the company’s network of food service directors to ensure all operations run smoothly.

The Abbey Group is a food service management company that dishes up thousands of healthy and delicious meals every day across Vermont, New Hampshire and New York. It works in more than 100 schools and a handful of corporate and government food courts, including the Capitol Food Court in Montpelier, Vermont.

Scott Schoiniere, Executive Vice President
Nina Hansen, Vice President of Operations

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Vermont Farm to School Conference Gathers 250 Local and National Leaders to Listen, Learn, and Develop Plans to Grow Farm to School Throughout Vermont

Over 250 local and national farm to school leaders gathered together this week at the 2016 Vermont Farm to School Conference to learn about the positive impacts of Farm to School programming, sample local cuisine, and help shape the future of farm to school in Vermont.  Held over the course of two days at Lake Morey Resort in Fairlee, Vermont, the conference featured talks by US Senator Patrick Leahy, USDA Farm to School and Community Food Systems Director Deborah Kane, and Executive Director of Child Nutrition of Detroit Public Schools Betti Wiggins.

 

Conference attendees had opportunities to attend over 25 workshops focused on a variety of topics including farm to school curriculum design and funding strategies, sharing stories of impact, school garden program planning, and engaging teens through innovative food systems programs.  A number of state government leaders and representatives were also in attendance, including Vermont Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Jolinda LaClair, Commissioner of Health Harry Chen, MD, Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcombe, and Windsor County Senator Dick McCormack.

 

“Vermont has long been a leader of farm to school efforts, and this conference is a clear indicator of what has seeded that leadership,” said USDA Farm to School Director Deborah Kane during her keynote speech yesterday.  “I am so inspired by Vermont’s vast farm to school network and its strong, meaningful, and effective partnerships. Working together helps make farm to school work!”

 

The first state in the nation to implement a Farm to School Grant Program, Vermont has long been a national leader in the Farm to School movement. Since 2007 the Vermont Farm to School Grant Program, administered by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM), has invested over $1.5 million in Farm to School Programs in over 30% of Vermont’s schools, impacting over 30,000 students.

 

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets recently announced more than $130,000 in funding available to Vermont schools in 2017. Grants are available for planning and development of new Farm to School (FTS) Programs, expanding existing FTS programs, or (new for 2017) transitioning to a universal meals program, which enables schools to offer all students fresh, healthy meals at no charge.

 

“I am extremely proud of the innovation and leadership provided by Vermont’s Farm to School Network over the last 10 years, and I’m pleased to see so many people here today working together to strengthen and grow the farm to school movement throughout our state,” said Vermont Ag Deputy Secretary Jolinda LaClair.  “Our Farm to School programs are essential to building a culture of ‘Ag Literacy’ in our schools and communities and to preparing our students to make a lifetime of healthy choices.”

 

Hosted by the Agency of Ag and Vermont FEED, in partnership with the Vermont Farm to School Network, the 2016 Farm to School Conference offered workshops and opportunities for both beginners and experts dedicated to food, farm, and nutrition education. The goals of the conference included:

  • Strengthening the connections between the Classroom, Cafeteria, and Community and share best practices from across the state
  • Strengthening the Vermont Farm to School Network and connect people so they envision themselves as part of the FTS Movement
  • Widening the audience aligned with Vermont’s Farm to School goals and strategies

 

Betty Wiggins, the Executive Director of Child Nutrition of Detroit Public Schools, spoke at the conference dinner on Wednesday night, which featured bean and vegetable cassoulet made with locally grown beans from Vermont Bean Crafters.  Responsible for school meals in 137 schools in Detroit, Betty credits the Vermont Farm to School model for much of the success of her farm to school programs.

 

“I need to thank Vermont and all of you for providing me with the inspiration to start farm to school programs in my own school system in Detroit,” said Wiggins.  “Almost a decade ago, I visited Vermont to learn about farm to school, and I stole your model.  At this point in my talk, I just wanted to remind you all that imitation is the highest form of flattery.”

 

“Our goal at the Vermont Department of Health is to help ensure the ‘healthy choice’ is also the easy choice and the attractive choice for kids,” said Health Commissioner Harry Chen, MD. “Farm to School does just that by making local, healthy foods available to our children in a way that is appealing to them.”

 

The conference attracted a wide range of FTS members and leaders, including farmers, food processors & distributors, child nutrition professionals, teachers, school administrators, government officials, policy makers, advocates, and non-profit partners.  In welcoming remarks, VAAFM Food Systems Chief Abbey Willard challenged all conference attendees to “learn something new, share something inspirational, and commit to replicating something successful in your community.”

 

Conference attendees heeded this opportunity and spent two inspirational days sharing stories and communicating the educational, nutritional, and economic impacts of Farm to School in their communities.

 

For more information about Vermont Farm to School visit http://agriculture.vermont.gov/producer_partner_resources/market_access_development/farm_school  or contact Ali Zipparo at Alexandra.Zipparo@vermont.gov or call (802) 505-1822.

 

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About the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets: VAAFM facilitates, supports and encourages the growth and viability of agriculture in Vermont while protecting the working landscape, human health, animal health, plant health, consumers and the environment.  www.Agriculture.Vermont.Gov

 

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Teaming up with Winooski Farmer’s Market!

The Abbey Group will be serving free Sunday summer meals on July 10th, July 17th, July 24th and July 31st at the Winooski Farmer’s Market. This is a groundbreaking initiative that has been made possible through the collaboration between NOFA Vermont, the Vermont Community Foundation, the Winooski School District and City of Winooski.

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