Help for Hungry Vermonters
On the homepage of their website, the Vermont Foodbank notes that “In Vermont, one in four people struggles with hunger.” That means that on any given day, you may pass by a handful of people who will go to bed hungry that night. You may even be one of those who are struggling.
If you or someone you know needs help finding healthy, nourishing food, there are a number of programs around the state that can help. Some of the programs can be used together, so you may be able to choose more than one. Many of the websites also offer information about other services and resources for those who are living on low or no income.
Need help now? Call 211 or go to www.vermont211.org
Here is a list of resources that offer help for hungry Vermonters. The list is long, so we’ve organized it by age. Within each section, you will find links to the program sites, where you can learn more about the service and how to either apply to or access services. If you need help now and want to talk to a real person about options in your area, call 211 now.
3SquaresVT is a USDA program administered by the Department for Children and Families, Economic Services Division. The program supplements the food budget of qualifying Vermonters, ensuring that they are able to eat three “square” meals a day. When you’re awarded 3SquaresVT benefits, you are given an electronic benefits card (EBC) that looks like a credit card. Every month, your card is updated with your benefit amount and you can use it at most grocery stores. Program eligibility depends on your employment, age, income, and other factors. The website for this program also offers information about other programs that can help reduce costs for income-stretched Vermonters. According to Rebecca Mitchell, the child nutrition initiatives specialist at Hunger Free Vermont, “another great benefit of 3SquaresVT is that it can be used at participating farmers' markets across the state, and participants can double their money through the Crop Cash program.”
FoodPantries.org and the Vermont Foodbank offer a searchable database of food pantries throughout Vermont. Each food pantry has its own hours of operations and eligibility requirements, so it is a good idea to call or research the pantry before you go.
Infants and children (and women):
Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) offers short-term food support for eligible women, infants, and children five years old or younger. WIC is administered at the federal level by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service and at the state level by local agencies and organizations. To receive services, you can refer to the Vermont Department of Health website, where you can learn more about benefits, search local health offices and more. Much like 3SquaresVT, WIC food benefits are provided through an electronic benefits card.
Through the Agency of Education (AOE), Vermont schools provide free meals during the school year to eligible students. In order to access the program, parents must fill out an application, which is provided by the school at the beginning of the school year.
Also offered through the Agency of Education, after school snacks and meals are available through various after school care programs around the state.
Wondering why hunger is an issue in Vermont and what you can do to help? Read this article by Monica Taylor, the donor relations manager at Hunger Free Vermont.
Once the school year ends, the Summer Meals Program picks up where school meals leave off. As with the school meals program, the summer program is also administered through the AOE. Hunger Free Vermont provides a summer meals site lists that offers meal locations, times, and contact numbers by county. This program can be used along with 3SquaresVT, for those who qualify for both programs.
For schools in low-income areas, the Universal Free School Meal program provides free meals to every student. Mitchell notes that 67 schools have elected to be part of the program as of September 13, 2017. The program ensures that ALL students in low-income areas—not just those who have met state qualifications—can receive free meals (breakfast and lunch) during the school year. As of this writing, nearly all of the schools that could qualify for the program are in the program.
Community Meals are served to seniors around Vermont through various agencies. As community meals, they not only provide nutrition; they also offer needed social interaction for older Vermonters.
For those who cannot make it to a community meal site, Meals on Wheels brings warm, nutritious food to their door. Meals on Wheels serves every community in the United States through locally run agencies. Meals on Wheels America has a meal finder, to help you find an agency serving your local area.
For eligible seniors, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) provides much needed nutrition education and food. Like WIC, CSFP is a USDA program for Vermont residents 60 years or older, which can be combined with 3SquaresVT benefits by those who qualify for both programs. This program is administered by the Vermont Foodbank, where seniors can learn more about the program and apply for services.
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About Simeon Chapin
At VSECU, Simeon Chapin leads the conceptualizing, directing, and implementing of a comprehensive and diverse community presence and engagement strategy for the organization. He has a background in music performance and business, anthropology, non-profits, and mission based business. When not building community with VSECU, he will likely be found with his wife and two boys enjoying hiking, biking, making music, and cooking local food.