Deadline arrives for Washington County residents to request meals for pickup or drop-off

The 48th annual Free Community Thanksgiving Dinner is adapting for the coronavirus pandemic. And Washington County residents can take advantage.

Because Vermont health guidelines bar large indoor gatherings, like the one that would have happened at the Bethany Church on Main Street in Montpelier on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26, an alliance of local agencies is offering pickup or delivery meals in its place.

Sodexo, Norwich University’s dining provider, is joining National Life Group to lead a community team led by the Washington County Youth Service Bureau/Boys & Girls Club to offer meals for pickup Nov. 25.  

People must submit meal requests by phone at 802-229-9151 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by Wednesday, Nov. 18.

People must submit meal requests by phone at 802-229-9151 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by Wednesday, Nov. 18, and say whether they plan to pick up their meals or want them delivered within Washington County.

Drive-through-only pickups will run 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 25 at National Life Group, 1 National Life Drive in Montpelier. Curbside pickups will run 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. outside Bethany Church, 115 Main St., Montpelier. Meal recipients must wear face masks and maintain 6-foot physical distancing for pickup.

Doorstep-drop home deliveries will run 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. Meal requesters should leave detailed instructions on where to leave the meal when they call or email.

“Sodexo is involved in the free Thanksgiving meal for the dual reasons of supporting our partners and to fight hunger in our community,” Annie Rowell, Sodexo’s Vermont First coordinator, wrote in an email. “We have the culinary and logistical resources available to support a great event like this.”

sodexo 2015 min
Sodexo staff members pose for a picture in the Wise Campus Center in 2015. Sodexo has worked with Norwich University to promote the sustainability of local food in Vermont. (Photo by Mark Collier.)

This is Sodexo’s first involvement with the free Thanksgiving meal, Rowell said, but she added that the company has long been committed to fighting hunger in Vermont. Sodexo, which has U.S. headquarters in Gaithersburg, Maryland, launched Vermont First in 2014 to grow market opportunities for local producers, spur job growth and ensure Vermont’s farming viability.

“Food insecurity has been a key concern in Vermont for many years, and the need is only greater this year,” Rowell wrote. “This is just one way we can help, and we are honored to work with the incredible partners making this year’s meal happen.”

In a statement posted on the Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility website, National Life Chairman, CEO and President Mehran Assadi said, “We’re proud to join Sodexo and other community partners to provide a meal to those who need one.”

Just Basics, the Vermont Foodbank, Hannaford supermarket, Central Vermont Medical Center, Hunger Mountain Coop, Cabot Creamery, Vermont Creamery, Chappelle’s Potatoes and Manghi’s Bread are joining the Washington County Youth Service Bureau to enable this year’s Thanksgiving meal.

Promoting sustainability

Norwich and Sodexho have long collaborated to promote local food sustainability.

In December 2019, Norwich combined with the University of Vermont and Sodexo to win a New England Food Vision Prize from the philanthropic Henry P. Kendall Foundation.

In the competition, food leaders from 200 New England college and university campuses submitted ideas to boost regionally produced food on campus menus. The foundation named six teams of winners representing 16 campuses; each team received a $250,000 award.

In a statement, the foundation said the University of Vermont and State Agricultural College and Norwich University, in partnership with Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, the University of Vermont Medical Center, Vermont Food Venture Center and the Pioneer Valley Growers Association would use the winnings to invest in state-of-the-art equipment for food processors.

The Vermont Fresh Network, a consortium of Vermont chefs, farmers, food artisans and diners, reported that Sodexo accounts spent $2.77 million on local food from more than 184 local producers in 2018. Sodexo has also said it convened more than 30 stakeholder meetings and sponsored events in 2018 to gather Vermont food system stakeholders and address farm-to-institution challenges.

On its company website, Sodexo said it serves 13,500 client sites in North America, supplying meals to 100 million consumers daily.

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