MIDDLEBURY, Vt. — Once a month, a small fleet of U-Haul vans driven by Middlebury College students caravans through the rolling landscape of Addison County, en route to delivering nearly six tons of food to local customers at schools, churches, and American Legion halls. This is Middlebury Foods, a student-founded nonprofit grocery distributor that hopes to disrupt the food system by making fresh foods more affordable to more people.

Customers order the produce and meat online, choosing from a range of assortments at varying prices. On delivery day, the student crew arrives at a warehouse stacked with boxes of broccoli, onions, carrots, apples, rice, and much more. They sort, weigh, label, and pack hundreds of brown grocery bags into the vans, then set off for the delivery sites.

The organization, which is not affiliated with the College or the local food co-op, hopes to reduce barriers, such as cost and accessibility, to purchasing high-quality fresh food. In the three years they’ve been in business, the group has seen rapid growth in demand for the service. They launched with just a few customers and a handful of products. Now they offer 34 products, sourced from more than a dozen producers, and they deliver to six different sites across the county.

They’ve also started accepting payments through SNAP, the federal Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, which helps them expand their service to lower-income customers.

Alex Brockelman ’18, the group’s communications manager, is pleased with the progress Middlebury Foods has made in a relatively short time. “I think we’re proving that it can be done,” Brockelman said. “And I think we’re proving that a community can decide that that’s how they want it.”