Did NMC Share An Economic Stimulus Idea With the Lt. Governor?

Yes. Last week, Lt. Governor Phil Scott held an “economic pitch session” to hear ideas for stimulating Vermont’s economy. Topics covered included increased tourism marketing, small business development, cooperative education, permitting reform, and more. NMC’s team spoke of our existing collaboration to stimulate the local fresh foods economy to improve access to healthy foods. They also expressed dismay over proposed State budget cuts which threaten prevention efforts such that Healthy Roots initiative. Here’s what they shared at the forum:

“With more than 750 employees and a payroll of approximately $40 million, NMC is one of the largest employers in the area and an important part of our regional economy. In addition, access to quality healthcare is an important consideration when other employers are considering where to invest for new or expanded facilities, so the strength of our community hospital helps to some extent with our industrial and commercial base, as does the cost-savings strength of the occupational health services which we provide for many local employers.”

“As many of you know, obesity, driven by poor nutrition and sedentary lifestyles, is one of the top three health problems identified in our region’s community needs assessment. It drives poor health and higher healthcare costs throughout our community. Prevention, education, and engagement are the keys to improving health and reducing costs. Today, as we talk about stimulating Vermont’s economy, I would like to draw your attention to a creative partnership between Northwest Regional Planning, the Franklin County Industrial Development Corporation, Northwestern Medical Center, and other partners in the community. The Healthy Roots initiative is designed to stimulate our local healthy foods economy while improving access to fresh healthy food choices for people throughout our community.”

“The Healthy Roots Collaborative evolved from the all-volunteer Diversified Ag Committee that had its “roots” in supporting consumer events to help educate our own community about the diversity of food grown right here in the Northwest corner. Over the past 6 months, the collaborative:

  • has leveraged $46K in funds for infrastructure to help enhance and improve aggregation, storage and distribution facilities for small and mid-sized farmers in Franklin and Grand Isle;
  • has helped serve truly local food at a variety of community events reaching over 600 people and connecting 25 farmers with potential customers;
  • has submitted numerous grant applications – and were even awarded a few – to support growth of our local food system; and
  • continues to meet with the over 150 diversified growers and producers in the NW corner to help to better understand their challenges, scale and market opportunities.”

“With help from community partners like the FGI United Way and statewide initiatives such as the Vermont Gleaning Collective, we have begun the hard work of establishing a formal gleaning network to ensure that fresh, local, nutrient dense food is rescued from farms and distributed to residents. The ultimate goal of the Healthy Roots Collaborative is to ensure that everyone in our region has access to local, fresh food from financially stable farms.”

“The sad irony of the situation is that the prevention dollars which are making this promising start possible are included in the proposed cuts which take effect July 1. With the governors proposed budget, the CHAMPPS funded prevention efforts relating to healthier eating, physical activity, and tobacco prevention would go away. Now is not the time to cut prevention funding. Now is not the time to stop stimulating our local economies to improve access to healthy local food choices. Now is the time to continue to invest in stimulating a diversified agriculture system, to promote access to healthy food choices, and to help Vermonters be healthier while strengthening our economy at the same time.”

We appreciate the opportunity to participate in sharing ideas with the Lt. Governor and many of our local legislative delegation. These proactive ideas can help Vermont have a healthier economy and some of them can also help us lead healthier lifestyles with lower healthcare costs through the prevention of illness and disease. Let’s work together for a healthier future!

— Jill Berry Bowen, NMC’s Chief Executive Officer