Neighbors Helping Neighbors: The Story of Vermont Foodbank’s Partnership with Darn Tough
The story of Vermont Foodbank’s partnership with Darn Tough is one that reflects this unique Green Mountain State community: Neighbors helping neighbors—in small and big ways that ripple across the rural landscape and lift individuals and families. Cold winters and warm summers bring both challenges and beauty to living and working here, and Darn Tough and the Vermont Foodbank are similarly committed to sustaining the people that call Vermont home.
A Community That Lends a Hand (or Sock)
“In 2009, when the banks failed, my husband and I lost our jobs and had to sell our home in Massachusetts. It was springtime, and the only thing we had was a raw piece of land in Vermont with a ramshackle outbuilding on it. Somehow, before winter, we needed to turn that little barn into a home. With two small children and no family in the area, it was a really scary time,” shares Mica, who works in corporate philanthropy at the Vermont Foodbank.
The Vermont Foodbank is the state’s largest hunger-relief organization, providing nourishing food to neighbors experiencing hunger through a network of more than 300 community partners—food shelves, meal sites, senior centers, after-school programs, schools, and hospitals.
“I will never forget that day in late fall when our neighbors showed up with tools, ladders, crockpots of warm chili, and baskets of bread,” continues Mica. “They worked tirelessly that weekend, and when they left, we had a functioning woodstove, a fully connected bathroom and kitchen, and a warm room for our daughters to sleep in. That is the Vermont community. Kind, strong, hard-working individuals who look out for their neighbors and lend a hand, without even being asked.”
That is the Vermont community. Kind, strong, hard-working individuals who look out for their neighbors.
Back in the early days (since 2003), Darn Tough generously donated product to the Foodbank, a huge hit with anyone who received it. However, things really changed in 2017 when Darn Tough called—in that Vermont community fashion—and, without being asked, offered to donate 100% of the profits from their online sales on Giving Tuesday. That first year raised over 35,000 meals for neighbors in need, and Darn Tough has continued to run Giving Tuesday campaigns to help the Foodbank meet the needs of people in Vermont who are facing hunger.
Enter the 2020 Pandemic
But that’s not all…. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Darn Tough recognized the unprecedented levels of food insecurity in their home state and stepped up in new ways, donating proceeds from special socks on a quarterly basis. There was even a commemorative sock created with Jen Ellis, the creator of the famous mittens that Bernie Sanders wore at the 2021 presidential inauguration. Those commemorative socks sold out within 24 hours and raised 294,112 meals to help support neighbors through challenging times.
Since March of 2020, one in three people in Vermont has reported experiencing food insecurity.
Since March of 2020, one in three people in Vermont has reported experiencing food insecurity. Local and national response swelled during this time, including the Vermont Foodbank, whose food distribution nearly doubled in the first year of the pandemic. Today, despite this huge effort, increased levels of food insecurity persist, and will for some time, especially for the most vulnerable in our communities. “With many federal programs coming to end in September, and as cases continue to rise, many families are trying to figure out how to make it through another pandemic winter,” explains Mica.
The pandemic laid bare many of the inequities that exist in our communities—including the ability to afford and access food. Support from corporate partners like Darn Tough is so important to the work the Foodbank does to address these challenges, especially now. “Partnering with local businesses helps us reach an audience that we might not have access to otherwise,” says Mica. “Not only does this help widen our fundraising net, but it also helps to raise awareness, and therefore destigmatize food insecurity. Imagine the powerful impact if every business in Vermont used its platform for good.”
871,635 Meals & Counting
As of August 2021, Darn Tough has donated the equivalent of 871,635 meals to the Vermont Foodbank over the years. And Darn Tough is hoping to reach 1,000,000 meals donated* sometime soon. That’s truly incredible. And the Foodbank is so grateful—to Darn Tough and to all of our kind, strong, hard-working community, looking out for their neighbors and lending a hand.
For more information, or to make a donation, visit www.vtfoodbank.org.
*Goal achieved in 2021. Now it's a million meals and counting with the introduction of Knit to Give, socks knit specifically to support the Vermont Foodbank.