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Delivering Wholesome Food to Neighbors in Need Around the Upper Valley

Nov 05, 2015 04:13PM ● By Kirsten Gehlbach
The mission is simple and effective. Willing Hands recovers nutritious food that might otherwise go to waste and gives this food, free of charge, to organizations serving neighbors in need.

Willing Hands Inc. was founded in 2004 by Peter Phippen, an employee of the Hanover Consumer Cooperative Society. Peter was dismayed by the amount of nutritious produce being thrown in the dumpster every day. He left his job and began to recover this food and give it away to people who otherwise could not afford it.

The new executive director of Willing Hands, Gabe Zoerheide of Corinth, says, “This is a fabulous organization—it’s bringing needed vegetables that are expensive and would be wasted to the greater Upper Valley.” He adds that volunteers bring food throughout the Upper Valley from Orford to South Royalton to Claremont. “Folks are waiting for us,” he adds.

Willing Hands has developed an efficient system for food recovery and distribution by arranging for regular pickups at over 22 food donors and delivering to at least 51 organizations every week all year long. That amounts to four to five tons of food, and in winter months the stored food can be delivered.

In 2014, Willing Hands’ deliveries consisted of 93% fruits and vegetables. The rest were mostly eggs, milk, frozen meat, and locally baked bread. This nutritious, wholesome food is a welcome and essential supplement to the boxed and canned foods typically consumed by neighbors in need.

“This is a volunteer-driven organization with a wonderful group of people who pick up vegetables all season and drive to deliver all year,” says Gabe. Four part-time drivers make 20 to 25 stops a day throughout the Upper Valley region at food shelves, community meals, daycare and rehabilitation programs, including families and seniors in subsidized housing, to help people of all ages in need.

Through Farm Projects, Willing Hands generates tons of farm-fresh produce. Volunteers tend vegetables in an organic farm garden. In 2014, volunteers proudly added about 38,100 pounds of local, fresh produce to Willing Hands deliveries.

What good fortune to live in an area brimming with opportunities to eat well because of local grocers, farmers, bakers, and chefs who are expert producers of top-quality food. This year, 26% of Willing Hands total pickups were from local farms and the Willing Hands garden. Willing Hands provides the critical link between this surplus and our neighbors in need.

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