Fighting Hunger in Vermont
What does hunger look like in Vermont?
69,724 Vermonters live in food insecure households, meaning they don’t have regular access to nutritious foods. Food insecurity is defined by the USDA as the lack of access to enough food to fully meet basic needs at all times due to a lack of financial resources. According to the U.S. Census, Current Population Survey for 2013-2015:
Why is hunger an issue in Vermont?
There are a number of challenges that make it difficult for Vermonters to consistently eat a nourishing diet. A lack of affordable housing, low wages, high unemployment, a decrease in the number of local and affordable grocery stores, and a lack of public transportation all contribute to and exacerbate food insecurity for Vermonters.
As a small, rural state, Vermont is both picturesque and isolating. Hunger is often hidden and diffuse and this contributes to a lack of understanding of the issue and extent of hunger’s impact on our state. Health issues like obesity, type-2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke can result from prolonged poor nutrition. Food insecurity in childhood can cause lethargy, increased illnesses, learning deficits and behavior problems. Hunger doesn’t just affect one’s health; it can also negatively impact a person’s educational achievement levels and workforce readiness.
It is estimated that hunger’s impact on health, education, and employment issues cost our state over $335,000,000 annually. Thankfully, there are numerous Vermonters who are committed to ending hunger and malnutrition, and who work tirelessly to help improve the lives of Vermont children, adults, and senior citizens who struggle with food insecurity.
How are communities fighting hunger in Vermont?
One example involves creative collaboration and extra hard work which enabled Vermonters to successfully reduce hunger in their community.
Over the last few summers, due to limited capacity and financial resources the Springfield Family Center was faced with the dilemma of not being able to serve as Springfield’s drop-in summer meal site. As a result, hundreds of children would very likely have had to go without a meal. This could have been detrimental to the kids who rely on these meals during summer vacation when school meals aren’t available. Without proper nutrition in the summer, many kids fall behind their peers academically when they return to school in the fall. Nutrition is THAT important for children’s developing brains.
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Fortunately, generous Vermonters support organizations like Hunger Free Vermont in order to ensure the various nutrition programs in our state are available to help when other resources run dry. In the case of Springfield, Hunger Free Vermont helped eliminate the financial gap that existed by arranging a small grant for the Center.
Hunger Free Vermont’s Hunger Council of the Windham Region brought together all the necessary players needed to make the summer meal program happen and feed children in the community. The Council worked with Two Rivers Supervisory Union, who became an alternative sponsor for the meal program. Meeting Waters YMCA was then able to transport the food from Chester to Springfield, where the Springfield Family Center distributed it to the pool and several housing sites, with support from Housing Vermont.
Because of these strong partnerships and the generosity of Vermonters, 189 children were served 7189 nutritious lunches in the Springfield area over the summer of 2016. Data from this summer (2017) is not available until December, but anecdotally, sites are reporting that numbers remained strong.
How can you help?
Hunger Free Vermont’s Hunger Councils offer a resource that brings people together from regions throughout the state to collaborate with others toward a more food-secure state. Vermonters convene and learn about the issues of hunger and food insecurity in their area and devise practical strategies to address them. Council members come from local schools, businesses, elected officials, non-profits, the religious community, food shelves, and healthcare workers – anyone from the community who is passionate about ending hunger is welcome. There are over 900 active volunteer members engaged throughout the state. Learn more at hungerfreevt.org
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