The Vermont Foodbank, Vermont’s largest hunger relief organization, is the Hunger Mountain Co-op’s featured community partner for June. Since 1986, the Foodbank has been responding to the problems of food insecurity and the need for supplemental food assistance among food-insecure households throughout Vermont. Through their wide range of programs, they provide nutritious food and promote health, while becoming nationally recognized as one of the most effective and efficient nonprofits and food banks in the country.
“Increasingly, the Foodbank has distributed more fresh food each year, especially produce,” according to Mica Seely, the Foodbank’s corporate and community philanthropy manager. “There are several reasons for this shift—the first being a desire to address the root causes of hunger in Vermont. Studies have shown that there are definite, clear links between food insecurity and poor health, and our own research highlights the challenges our clients face when it comes to health and hunger.”
Seely notes the Foodbank serves more than 153,000 people each year, including nearly 34,000 children and 26,000 seniors. “The reasons are varied but typically include under-employment, low wages, high cost of living, emergencies, job loss, poor health, and chronic illness,” she says, adding, “A food-insecure household uses coping strategies, including choosing between food and medicine or being forced to consume cheaper foods high in calories but low in nutritional value.”
The Foodbank works with 215 Network Partner Agencies that directly distribute food to individuals and families in need. Through this system, millions of pounds of food are delivered from three regional distribution centers, in addition to two federal food distribution programs managed by the Foodbank, and their other distribution programs such as BackPack and VeggieVanGo.
“Our BackPack program helps children struggling with hunger by filling their backpacks each Friday during the school year with tasty, easy-to-prepare food items that are high in nutritional value,” Seely says, while the VeggieVanGo program is, “like pop-up farmers markets at six schools and 10 hospitals across the state. They provide an opportunity for participants to bring home fresh produce and a gathering place that offers support and conversations about healthy food.”
To ensure all eligible, food-insecure households in Vermont can access the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, known here as 3SquaresVT, the Foodbank has an outreach and application assistance program. Seely says, “We serve as the navigator in this system, helping eligible Vermonters complete the applications and monitoring them through the approval process. In 2019, we estimate our staff will assist in the completion of 265 SNAP applications, equal to 179,357 SNAP meals.”
Those are just a few of the Foodbank’s invaluable programs. Others include The Community Kitchen Academy, which provides culinary and job placement support for under-and-unemployed individuals, and VT Fresh, which provides low-income Vermonters with fresh fruits and vegetables and nutrition education. From now until June 30, round up your purchase to the next dollar every time you shop at the Co-op to support these programs and all of the Vermont Foodbank’s remarkable work.
This text was provided and sponsored by The Hunger Mountain Co-op.