Vermont First, created in 2014, is a first of its kind program committing Sodexo to increase local purchasing across its Vermont institutional markets. Since its inception, our aim has been to grow market opportunity for local producers, stimulate job growth, and ensure the viability of Vermont’s working lands.
We do this through strategic purchasing shifts, collaboration with stakeholders, increasing consumer awareness, and training and enabling our operators to implement Vermont First objectives. Vermont First has been recognized as a best practice in farm to institution work for its transparent, rigorous tracking system and strategic alignment of institutional purchasing needs with local supply. Explore our site to learn more.
Chris Brittain | Vermont First Coordinator
Before joining Sodexo as the Vermont First Facilitator in September 2022 (and continuing as the Vermont First Coordinator in September 2023), Chris was a graduate student in the Food Systems program at University of Vermont. During his time, he worked as a research associate with Southeastern Vermont Community Action and the Vermont Everyone Eats program, taught an undergraduate lab on statistics for social sciences, worked as a research assistant for both UVM Extension and the Department of Nutrition and Food Science, and was the Vermont First graduate fellow during his first year. Prior to moving to Vermont, Chris lived in Minnesota, where he worked in urban planning and community development in Duluth and Minneapolis.
Vermont First has been recognized as a best practice in farm to institution work for its transparent, rigorous tracking system and strategic alignment of institutional purchasing needs with local supply. This work is made possible by the support of our two governance groups:
The Vermont First Executive Committee is made up of Sodexo regional and national leadership to steer the direction of Vermont First within Sodexo. Our members are:
- Charity Chandler
Charity Chandler is currently the Director of DE&I Experience for Sodexo, previously serving in the Airline Lounges and Universities segments. Having recently made her passion project (DE&I) her day job, she consistently is seeking ways to uplift the employee voice, encourage our teams to bring their authentic selves to work, and improve experiences for our employees, customers and client partners. She earned her Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis from the University of Wisconsin and lives in Wisconsin with her wife, April, and four fur babies.
- Emma Cutler
Emma Cutler is the Executive chef and General Manager for Sodexo at National Life in Montpelier, VT. Raised on the small island of Anguilla in the BWI she knew from a small girl that her passion for food and cooking would lead her career choices as an adult. After pursuing a career in cooking in the Caribbean she was named the first female executive chef for Sonesta hotels. In 2000 moved to Central Vermont to take on a culinary instructor position at New England Culinary institute. With a twenty-year tenure at the school, she was nominated as instructor of the year in 2011 and became a senior core instructor in 2015, combining her passion for food with teaching was a way to give back to up-and-coming chefs. In 2019 she transitioned to work with Sodexo and become the General Manager of the National Life café in Montpelier Vermont, leading a staff for high-end catering functions and daily management of a cafeteria feeding 1500 people daily.
- Ted DiGrande
- Maeve McInnis
Maeve McInnis, originally from Cape Neddick, ME and a current resident of Portland, earned a master’s degree in Environmental Policy and Sustainability Management with a specialization in Food & the Environment from The New School in New York where she conducted her thesis at the NYC Mayor’s Office for Food Policy. She sits on the boards of the Portland Food Council and the Maine Grain Alliance. Her passion for social justice, local food systems, and the environment make her the perfect person to lead this effort to serve more local food at Sodexo sites throughout Maine.
- Nicole Reilly
Nicole Reilly, MS, RD, CD is the Sustainability and Campus Partnership Manager with the University of Vermont (UVM) Dining Services. This role allows her to engage in culinary nutrition work while also building and strengthening capacity for a resilient, local food system. She works with the UVM community to promote sustainable food purchasing, reduce waste on campus, and increase access to foods for the diverse student population. Nicole is a Registered Dietitian with over ten years experience in inpatient/outpatient and foodservice settings. Prior to her current role, she was the Campus Dietitian with UVM Dining. She completed her undergraduate degree at UVM, Dietetic Internship at Long Island University: C.W. Post, and her Masters degree at Oklahoma State University. Outside of work, she serves on the Board of Directors for Hunger Free Vermont and can be found experimenting in her kitchen, gardening, or hiking with her husband, daughter and two dogs.
- Brian Roper
Originally from Bristol, CT and a current resident of Colchester, VT, Brian Roper is a Regional Account Manager. Brian is passionate about local food and has a general love for feeding people. In his spare time, Brian is an avid outdoorsman who loves fishing on the lake and spending time outside with family and friends whenever possible.
- Joe Russo
- Don Woodworth
Don Woodworth is lead counsel for Sodexo North America with respect to supply management operations and group Sodexo’s group purchasing organization. Don completed is undergraduate studies at Northwestern University and obtained his law degree from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, where he was active in its lawyering in Spanish program. Since law school, Don has worked in Spain, Argentina, Mexico and the United States. He is fluent in Spanish. Outside of work, Don loves international travel with his wife and daughter, especially in Latin America. In addition, Don loves the outdoors, whether backcountry skiing, climbing or biking. From a culinary perspective, Don hates recipes, preferring to cook with whatever is in the pantry and is a wine enthusiast. Don lives in Plainfield, Vermont. He is excited to put his background to work for Vermont First, appreciative for all of the bounty that small Vermont food producers create that he’s sure that Sodexo consumers will enjoy as much as he and his family do on a daily basis.
- Melissa Zelazny
Melissa Zelazny, RD, is the Resident District Manager at the University of Vermont and National Life Group. Melissa is a native Vermonter and a graduate of UVM. Melissa has been at UVM for the past 16 years after spending 18 years in the healthcare division in CT with Sodexo. She resides in Underhill, VT with her husband, Zee, and dog, Grady. She has 3 adult children and a 7-year-old granddaughter. As a dietitian and landowner in VT, she champions the Vermont First program due to its strategic emphasis on farmers, local food and driving change at an institutional level.
- Heather Winther
Heather Winther is the Senior Communications and Marketing Manager for Sodexo at the University of Vermont. Her background in food, community and marketing is from non-profit, creative agency and B Corporation work and volunteerism. Her years at the Vermont Retail & Grocers Association / Vermont Specialty Food Association, working on packaging design and digital asset creation for local and global food & beverage brands and her obsession with attending local farmers markets wherever she is traveling to, provide an insightful, curious and thoughtful perspective into our work.
- Eric Caravan
Eric Caravan is the Executive Chef overseeing residential dining at the University of Vermont.
Vermont First Advisory Board is made up of members within the Vermont food system to provide input and guide the direction of Vermont First. Our members are:
- Kristyn Achilich
- Allan Reetz
Allan Reetz (he/him) is Director of Public and Government Affairs and has been a team member at the Hanover Co-op Food Stores since 1995. Prior to establishing this department at the Co-op in 2016, he served as the cooperative’s director of marketing and communication. Allan grew up near the shores of Canandaigua Lake, part of the ancestral land of the Seneca and Iroquois Nations in Western, New York. After studying communication and psychology in college, he pursued a radio broadcast career in Massachusetts, Arizona, and Vermont. Allan currently serves on several advisory boards (farming, housing, transportation), including Vermont’s Main Street Alliance, New Hampshire Food Alliance, NH Businesses for Social Responsibility, National Organic Coalition, VSJF’s Meat Task Force, and Upper Valley Transportation Management Association. In his free time, Allan enjoys cycling, snow sports, and has his sights set on back-roads bike touring in northern Scotland.
- Brian Cassino
Brian Cassino is currently the Multi Unit Account Relationship Manager with Black River Produce. He has spent the last 7 years working for local food distributors promoting local products and produce to all forms of customers. He has lived in VT for well over a decade, from Burlington to Stowe to the NEK and now currently in Montpelier. Living in all these locations, as well as working in positions that cover the whole state, has given him a great feel for the opportunities this state can provide. Hailing from Buffalo, NY, he has an Associates Degree in the arts and has worked as a chef, wilderness instructor, maintenance tech, and salesperson. He and his wife met as Wilderness Instructors for Outward Bound and now have three young children.
- Dave Rubin
- Jake Claro
- Lauren Griswold
Lauren is striving to make local and organic food accessible to all Vermonters in both institutional and consumer settings. Lauren has been putting her weight behind sustainable agriculture and local food systems since 2011. She's worked on various livestock and vegetable farms, including a two-year chapter managing production and serving as a garden educator for the Seed to Table Program in central Oregon. Before joining NOFA-VT, Lauren was a member of the Food & Farm team at Vital Communities, where she oversaw a number of projects that strengthened connections between food and community. Her experience with those food access, farm-to-school, and farmer's market promotion projects informs her present work at NOFA-VT: bringing more chairs to the table of Vermont organic food. She is inspired by the creative work being done in this state to ensure that local, organic food feels relevant and accessible to all. In her free time, you'll often find her coopting friends into extensive dinners, heading out for a wander in the woods, or curling up with a good book by the fire.
- Joe Bossen
- Meghan Sheradin
- Peter Allison
Peter Allison is the Executive Director of Farm to Institution New England (FINE), a cross-sector six-state organization that mobilizes the power of institutions to transform our food system. FINE serves the growing and dynamic network of farm to institution stakeholders in New England through research, communications, relationship building and incubating innovative projects. Prior to FINE, Peter led a variety of environmental programs in non-profit, government and business settings. Peter lives at the Cobb Hill co-housing and farm community in Hartland, VT. He enjoys time peddling his bike on the backroads of Vermont, skiing the backcountry and muddling in the garden. He has a BA in Philosophy from Drew University, an MA in Urban and Environmental Policy from Tufts University, and is the proud parent of a current UVM student.
- Rose Wilson
Rose Wilson is a leading business planner in the Vermont farm and food sector. Since founding her company, Rose Wilson Consulting, in 2004, she has worked with over 420 farms and food producers, helping with business launch, expansion, and exit; enterprise analysis; and market development. Rose is also an excellent grant writer and has secured more than $7 million in funding for her clients.
- Roy Beckford
Roy Beckford obtained his undergraduate (Veterinary and Public Health) and graduate degrees (Agriculture/Rural Development) from the University of the West Indies, Trinidad, and his PhD (Sustainability Education) at Prescott College, Arizona. He is the Associate Dean and Director of Extension at the University of Vermont. Prior to his Agriculture Development consultation work in the Middle East (Qatar) in 2020, Roy was the Agriculture and Natural Resources Program Leader at the North Carolina Agriculture and Technical State University with responsibility for providing Leadership and Coordination in the development and implementation of statewide agriculture and natural resources programs for NC Cooperative Extension. Roy served as Agriculture/Natural Resources agent and County Extension Director for the University of Florida Extension where he was a faculty member for 14 years, and he has also worked in agricultural and veterinary Extension in Jamaica, and the British Virgin Islands.
- Gina Clithero
- Kevin Haggerty